Ten fentanyl overdoses in a week prompt Windsor alert

This is the region’s third overdose alert issued in recent weeks.

Windsor Star 3 minute read October 6, 2021

EMS paramedics and Windsor firefighters are shown May 28, 2020, working on a man suspected of having overdosed on fentanyl as he lies on the pavement east of the downtown. Dax Melmer / Windsor Star

A spike in opioid-related emergency department visits, a trend in recent weeks, has prompted an alert in Windsor-Essex.

Between Sept. 27 and Oct. 3, 10 fentanyl overdoses were recorded — nine by Windsor Regional Hospital and one by Erie Shores HealthCare.

Compared to the region’s two-year and five-year averages, that’s a significant spike in overdoses, according to the Windsor-Essex Community Opioid and Substance Strategy (WECOSS), which issued the “strongly warranted” community alert Tuesday afternoon.

WECOSS asks that community partner agencies share this information with their clients and other relevant partners. Anyone aware of any links between these overdoses or other causes for the increase is urged to contact the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit.

This is the region’s third overdose alert issued in recent weeks. Between Sept. 14 and 20, there were 12 fentanyl overdoses. Nine were reported by Windsor Regional Hospital and three were reported by Erie Shores HealthCare. There were also four non-overdose opioid-related emergency department visits.

It could be the opportunity to save a life

Another alert covering Sept. 8 to 14 stated there were 10 local opioid overdose-related emergency department visits. Nine of those involved fentanyl. In addition, there were two non-overdose fentanyl-related emergency department visits during that time.

Separately, between Sept. 12 and 14, there were eight EMS overdose notifications.

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“This year we’ve seen more opioid overdoses than any other year in the recent past,” said Windsor-Essex County Health Unit CEO Nicole Dupuis on Wednesday. “That is cause for concern.

“I know we talk a lot about COVID-19, but our team is still working very hard behind the scene, as well as all our healthcare partners, to tackle this issue.”

The health unit has identified two potential locations — 101 Wyandotte St. E. and 628 Goyeau St — for consumption and treatment services sites in downtown Windsor. Multiple town halls were held over the summer to obtain public feedback on each proposed location.

Ultimately, one location for consumption and treatment services will be selected. Once operational, such a site would allow people to use drugs in a safe environment with direct access to medical and social support. The site will not provide substances, but will serve to reduce overdoses and deaths, and to connect people with services for mental health, treatment, and housing.

“COVID-19 has been the focus, but in fact, over the past 18 months, there are more people that have died of opioid use than died in car crashes (in Ontario),” said acting medical officer of health Dr. Shanker Nesathurai.

With many opioid overdose deaths occurring at home, Nesathurai urged residents worried about family or loved ones to pick up a naloxone kit.

“It could be the opportunity to save a life,” he said. “That’s one thing that every one of us could do.”

Naloxone, an overdose-reversal drug, is available without prescription and for free from a number of local pharmacies and community agencies, including the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit (1005 Ouellette Ave.), Southwest Ontario Aboriginal Health Access Centre (1405 Tecumseh Rd. W.), Hotel-Dieu Grace Health Care (1453 Prince Road), and others.

For signs and symptoms of an overdose, visit wecoss.ca. If you think someone is overdosing, call 911 and stay with the person.

WECOSS is a collaborative initiative to address the harms associated with the abuse of opioids and other substances in the Windsor-Essex region.