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Prevention and Education refers to interventions that seek to prevent or delay substance use, and which address root causes of problems (Waterloo Region Crime Prevention Council, 2011). These interventions may involve promoting healthy families, mentoring programs, school and community education, and a number of other approaches to enhance the knowledge and skills of the community related to substance use.

1. ENHANCE SURVEILLANCE ACTIVITIES AND USE OF OVERDOSE DATA ACROSS SECTORS.

Collecting and analyzing health-related data is essential in planning, implementing, and evaluating public health programs and interventions. Until recently there has been a lack of accurate data about how many people have overdosed due to opioids in Ontario, and difficulty in the tracking the number of deaths caused by opioid use. The lack of this type of data at the local level has impacted the ability for a timely and comprehensive response. Through the sharing of data across service providers in Windsor and Essex County, a comprehensive and timely understanding of the issue could be achieved, timely local reports could be generated, and an early warning system could be created to alert the community of contaminants found in illicit drugs.

Potential Strategies

  • Improve data sharing between law enforcement, public health, and other community stakeholders to improve response plans and early warning to reduce harms through data sharing agreements.
  • Develop “real-time” overdose surveillance/monitoring system for Windsor and Essex County to provide consistency and clear messaging/alerts about toxins or contaminants found in illicit drugs.

2. INCREASE PUBLIC AWARENESS ABOUT OPIOID MISUSE, DIVERSION, AND OVERDOSE PREVENTION THROUGH PUBLIC AWARENESS CAMPAIGNS.

Among the best approaches to addressing opioid use is to intervene before it occurs (Hahn, 2011). Education and prevention activities should be implemented to increase awareness of opioid use and associated dangers. Increased awareness about the potential risks associated with prescription and illicit opioids will provide Windsor and Essex County residents with a clear understanding of the importance of proper use, storage, and disposal of prescription opioids, as well as the risks associated with possibly contaminated illicit opioids (e.g., bootleg fentanyl). Community campaigns and promotional messaging can be an effective tool when it comes from multiple partners and from multiple sources such as radio, television, billboards, and social media.

Potential Strategies

  • Target high risk populations, youth/parents, and people who use opioids with a mass media campaign to enhance public identification of opioid misuse, diversion, and overdose as a community issue
  • Create a shared communication plan across all service providers to build capacity of organizations to reach their target populations.

3. INCREASE PROVIDER AND PATIENT EDUCATION ON OPIOID USE AND MANAGING CHRONIC PAIN.

A multipronged approach to address problems related to opioid use and overdose through education and prevention must also include educating patients and health care providers about opioid use and chronic pain management. Increased education for health care providers about safe prescribing practices has been identified as a key strategy in Ontario’s Strategy to Prevent Opioid Addiction and Overdose (Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, 2017). Although there is evidence to suggest that recent prescribing patterns may be improving such as dispensing smaller quantities of opioids, there still may be opportunities for education. Patients that need to take opioids for treating pain must also be provided with clear information about risks tied to impaired driving, dependence, addiction, and co-use with depressants (Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, 2016).

Potential Strategies

  • Provide continuing medical education sessions on pain management, appropriate prescribing, and diversion control, as well as continuing education for pharmacists on diversion and forgery.
  • Provide additional information to patients prescribed opioids to ensure they are aware of the associated risks and access to naloxone to reverse accidental overdose.