Declare opioid overdoses a public health emergency, inquest says

0
166
Declare opioid overdoses a public health emergency, inquest says


The province of Ontario should declare a public health emergency concerning the opioid overdose epidemic, a coroner’s jury has recommended.

The recommendation was among 55 that came at the conclusion of the inquest into the death of Bradley Chapman, a Toronto man who died of acute opioid toxicity in August 2015 at age 43.

It follows similar calls to the province last year from the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty and a group of more than 700 front-line health care workers.

“I think (the recommendations) have the ability to really make a difference and to save lives if adopted,” said Chapman’s sister, Leigh. “I think that they alert the public that we absolutely need to do more, that the deaths are preventable. And they also give a sense of what we could do to prevent them.

“I think that Brad fell through so many cracks and people continue to fall through cracks.”

The jury’s 55 sweeping recommendations, aimed at several public bodies, including the provincial and federal governments, the City of Toronto, and the chief of the Toronto Police Service, include:

  • assigning a provincial co-ordinator at the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care for a response to the opioid overdose crisis;
  • providing increased funding and resourcing for harm-reduction programs and services in Ontario;
  • decriminalizing the possession of all drugs for personal use;
  • tracking and sharing of information on the number of individuals released from incarceration who become homeless.

“I think you can summarize what (the jury) did by saying the current way of dealing with drug use isn’t working,” said Suzan Fraser, a lawyer for the Chapman family. “We need a harm-reduction strategy. We need to stop pushing people to the margins by criminalizing them, by stigmatizing people who use drugs and who are homeless.”

David Jensen, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, told the Star that the ministry has received the recommendations and looks forward to reviewing them.

“The government is committed to making mental health a priority. That’s why it’s investing $3.8 billion over 10 years to develop and implement a comprehensive and connected mental health and addictions strategy,” Jensen wrote in an email. “The government will continue to make mental health a priority and work toward creating an Ontario where everyone is fully supported in their journey toward mental wellness.”

Chapman was found by a security guard slumped over in an alcove on Walton St. near Yonge and Gerrard Sts., in the early morning of Aug. 18, 2015. Police were unable to rouse him, and when paramedics arrived, Chapman had no vital signs. He was resuscitated and rushed to Toronto General Hospital, where he was put on life support and listed as a John Doe. Chapman’s family only learned what had happened thanks to some sleuthing by a hospital spiritual counsellor.

Among the jury’s recommendations are that all front line police officers should be equipped with naloxone, and that first-aid training for officers incorporate “a module on how to recognize and respond to an opioid overdose.”

“The Service will review the recommendations from today’s inquest and, where appropriate, make the necessary changes to our processes, procedures and/or training,” Meaghan Gray, director of corporate communications for the Toronto Police Service, wrote in an email to the Star.

The inquest was one of two called nine months after a Star investigation published in 2016 chronicled the circumstances that the led to Chapman’s death. The other inquest focused on the death of Grant Faulkner, 49, a man who perished after the plywood shelter he was staying in caught fire on a sub-zero night in January 2015. The Faulkner inquest wrapped up in June 2018 with the release of 35 recommendations. The two inquests were the first to focus on the deaths of homeless individuals in the GTA in more than a decade.

The jury also said the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario should develop guidelines for the care of “people who are experiencing homelessness, including those with mental health and addiction challenges.”

“We are going to move with that,” said RNAO CEO Doris Grinspun, who also commended a recommendation that responsibility for health care in correctional facilities be transferred from the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services to the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care.

Brent Ross, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services thanked the jury members for their service and for recommending ways to prevent deaths.

“(The ministry) works to make sure our policies and procedures are based on the best evidence and are in line with best practices,” Ross said.

Kenyon Wallace is a Toronto-based investigative reporter. Follow him on Twitter: @KenyonWallace or reach him via email: kwallace@thestar.ca

Mary Ormsby is a reporter and feature writer based in Toronto. Reach her via email: mormsby@thestar.ca





Source link

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here