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Ontario political parties promise help on opioid crisis as election looms

From the Toronto Star article

PARIS – Paolo Dinola doesn’t really care who wins the provincial election so long as the next government tries to save others from the fate of his son, who became another statistic last year in Ontario’s surging opioid crisis.

Aaron Dinola died on Nov. 6, 2021, after a fentanyl overdose. He was 32 years old and a father of three.

“He was my beautiful boy, he always had a good heart, but got addicted to painkillers after a car accident,” Paolo Dinola said in an interview. “Three years later he’s dead from fentanyl – the system failed him.”

Opioid deaths and hospitalizations surged significantly across the province after the pandemic hit in early 2020.

The Office of the Chief Coroner shared data on Thursday that showed 2,819 people died from opioid toxicity in 2021. That’s up from 2,460 opioid deaths the year before – a figure that itself was up 58 per cent from fatalities recorded in 2019.

Both the NDP and the Liberals pledged to help tackle the opioid problem on Thursday while Progressive Conservative Leader Doug Ford said a few days earlier that he’d help anyone with an addiction problem.

Dinola was at a cafe in Paris, Ont., where NDP Leader Andrea Horwath made a campaign stop and pledged to reform the mental health system.

Tara Gomes, an epidemiologist at Unity Health, said there’s no urgency from either the province or the federal government.

Gomes said both levels of government need to relax rules on proven opioid treatments like suboxone and methadone, vast expansion of harm reduction, safe spaces to use drugs and decriminalize drugs.

“Even as we’ve seen these waves come and go with the pandemic, opioid-related deaths are just climbing year over year,” Gomes said.

“And this isn’t something that seems to be resolving any time soon.”

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