Sioux Lookout one of two communities chosen to run Good Samaritan Drug Overdose Act campaign in Northwestern Ontario
Reeti Meenakshi Rohilla - Staff Writer
Sioux Lookout Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) have partnered with the Northwestern Health Unit and the Healthy Community Task Force to provide public outreach and education through the Good Samaritan Drug Overdose Act (GSDOA) campaign. Constable Andrea DeGagne, with the Sioux Lookout OPP said, “Opioid overdoses are claiming the lives of thousands of Canadians, from all ages and walks of life. The Good Samaritan Drug Overdose Act (GSDOA) is part of the Government of Canada’s strategy for addressing the Opioid Crisis. By providing individuals some legal protection against drug possession charges, it encourages people to call for medical help during an overdose situation and reduces the fear of police attending overdose events.”
DeGagne explained that the GSDOA came into effect in May 2017. The Act allows individuals to contact emergency services and stay with someone who is experiencing an overdose. It focuses on diminishing the fear of himself or herself or the individual in crisis being charged criminally for having illegal substances on them, as long as these are for personal use. “Before the act was in place, the individual experiencing the overdose, and the individual calling for help could have gotten in trouble for simple drug possession while seeking emergency assistance that could save a life,” she said.
This province-wide, public-awareness campaign is running from August 31th to December 11th, 2020. OPP detachments chosen from across the province will be working with local community partners throughout the duration of the campaign, to ensure the public is informed about the legal implications of calling 9-1-1 in case of a suspected overdose, and provide information about how to best respond in order to save a life, mentioned DeGagne. The Red Lake community has also been chosen to run this campaign. “This selection was made by the OPP Opioid Workgroup, through projections created with police-database information about overdoses and OPIOID related issues in OPP-policed communities,” said DeGagne.
According to an analysis carried out by Public Health Ontario between July 2017 and June 2018 on Opioid Mortality, the number of annual opioid-related deaths in the province has increased from 468 in 2007 to 1265 by 2017, with an estimated 46 per cent increase in the number of deaths between 2016 and 2017.
Health Canada describes opioids as natural and synthetic substances, catering to manage pain during clinical procedures. However, these drugs are also produced and consumed non-medically, leading to opioid-related harms like addiction and overdose.
“We have pamphlets and posters that are being distributed to local businesses and organizations, which outline what the GSDOA provides protection for, and what is not covered under the Act. The Northwestern Health Unit is also assisting by educating about signs and symptoms of an overdose, as well as what to do in case of a suspected overdose situation, which includes administering Naloxone, calling 9-1-1, and staying with the individual in crisis,” DeGagne said.
To kick off the campaign, a street patrol was conducted with a local NWHU outreach nurse, which involved speaking with people about the GSDOA and providing Naloxone training and kits to interested individuals. She added that additional patrols would be undertaken throughout the campaign, along with organizing small group presentations with local school and community groups.
“Knowing the signs and symptoms of an overdose and how to react can save lives. It is our hope that the awareness campaign will increase reporting of overdoses to emergency services, and that individuals will stay and support individuals in crisis, until help arrives. Individuals and organizations can contact the Sioux Lookout detachment (737-2020) or local NWHU (737-2292) to organize an information event throughout the duration of the campaign,” DeGagne concluded.