The Simcoe Muskoka Opioid Strategy (SMOS) Steering Committee has released a final report reflecting the results of a multi-year, region-wide action plan aimed at addressing the opioid crisis impacting the communities of Simcoe and Muskoka. SMOS is a large partnership of agencies, organizations and individuals working together to address opioid-related harms in our communities.
The report, Simcoe Muskoka Opioid Strategy (SMOS): A Report on Actions (2018-2021), provides a review of the goals and actions completed as part of the multi-year SMOS Action Plan that was initiated in 2018. Highlights of the actions are presented based on SMOS’ five action pillars; prevention, treatment/clinical practice, harm reduction, enforcement, and emergency management, and two foundational pillars; data and evaluation, and lived experience. The report also includes a scorecard and dashboard that demonstrates progress made over the course of implementing the SMOS Action Plan.
“Although all activities from the SMOS Action Plan were completed, there is still significant progress to be made in furthering the work on the initial goals and activities and on new priority areas that have emerged since the development of the plan in 2018,” said Mia Brown, SMOS Steering Committee chair and manager of SMDHU’s substance use and injury prevention program. “The issues associated with substance use are complex and unfortunately, we have not seen a reduction in the rate of opioid-related harms.”
In 2020 and 2021, Simcoe Muskoka experienced a significant rise in opioid poisoning emergency department (ED) visits and deaths because of an increasingly toxic and unregulated drug supply. In 2021, there were over 800 ED visits for opioid poisonings among residents, which was approximately 25% higher than what was observed the previous year. Also in 2021, there were 169 confirmed and probable opioid-related deaths in Simcoe Muskoka, which were 25% higher than in 2020 and nearly double the average from 2017-2019.
The SMOS steering committee is committed to working with community partners to develop a refreshed drug strategy for 2023 and beyond that will address several emerging trends and needs. Priorities for consideration include:
- Broadening the scope of the strategy to include all illicit substances.
- Exploration of starting safer opioid supply programs.
- Pursuing increased community access to Opioid Agonist Treatment
- Continuing advocacy to decriminalize personal use and possession of illicit substances and enhanced health and social services to reduce the stigma and other harms of criminalization.
- Continuing to support the Barrie Consumption and Treatment Services (CTS) site application.
- Continuing to pursue evidence-based initiatives for substance use prevention and mental health promotion throughout the life span.
The final report is available online at Simcoe Muskoka Opioid Strategy webpage, and previous reports and status updates on SMOS actions are available at PreventOD.ca. For local opioid trends, including opioid-related deaths and opioid poisonings, see HealthSTATS.org or call Health Connection to speak with a public health professional weekdays 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at 705-721-7520 (1-877-721-7520).
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