Increasing rates of opioid overdose across Canada have prompted action at all levels of government. In addition to the broad increases in opioid-related emergency department (ED) visits, hospitalizations, and deaths noted at the provincial level (Ontario Agency for Health Protection and Promotion (Public Health Ontario), 2017), a recent report identified Windsor-Essex having an increased burden of opioid-related harms (Windsor-Essex County Health Unit, 2017) relative to other regions in Ontario. With increased funding for local public health units to address this issue, an opportunity exists to address opioid overdose in Windsor-Essex with strategies driven by community need and a community focused approach to overdose prevention and harm reduction.
The Windsor-Essex Community Opioid Strategy (WECOS) seeks to address the increases in opioid related harms through a set of best practice strategies tailored through community feedback to address the unique needs of Windsor-Essex residents. Recognizing that no single agency or single activity or action can adequately address an issue as complex as substance abuse, a four pillar approach utilizing Prevention/Education, Harm Reduction, Treatment, and Enforcement has been implemented in similar sized Ontario municipalities and as such will serve as the model on which the WECOS is based.
An initial set of eight interventions plus one foundational step were developed utilizing national and provincial best practices such as those implemented by the City of Toronto (Toronto Public Health, 2017) and the Region of Waterloo (Waterloo Region Crime Prevention Council, 2011), as well as a local environmental scan to determine areas of need specific to Windsor-Essex. These interventions were further refined through community consultations.