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Opioid deaths doubled among Ontario First Nations people during pandemic: report

The number of First Nations people who have died from opioid-related deaths in Ontario has more than doubled in the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic.

This is one of the main findings of a report released Friday by the heads of Ontario and the Ontario Drug Policy Research Network, which examined trends in hospitalizations and deaths due to to opioid-related poisonings among First Nations and non-First Nations in Ontario.

He notes that 116 First Nations people died from opioid poisoning between March 2020 and March 2021, up from 50 people the previous year.

This is a 132% increase, compared to a 68% increase in opioid-related deaths among the rest of the province’s population.

“First Nations have been disproportionately affected by the overdose crisis,” Ontario Regional Chief Glen Hare said in a statement.

“The use of opioids and other substances continues to increase during the COVID-19 pandemic, producing conditions that further increase overdoses and deaths. ”

The monthly rate of hospital visits for opioid poisoning has increased since March 2016 among First Nations and non-Indigenous people, the report notes.

The number of First Nations people who attended hospital for opioid-related poisoning between March 2020 and March 2021 was 816, up from 601 the previous year, an increase of 35.8%.

In comparison, the number of non-Indigenous people who visited the hospital for opioid-related poisoning increased 16.4% during this period, from 7,441 to 8,662.

The report indicates that the majority of First Nations people who attended hospital or died from opioid poisoning lived in urban areas or outside of First Nations communities.

However, during the pandemic, the largest relative increase in opioid-related harms occurred among First Nations people living in rural areas and within First Nations communities. Specifically, just over one in five hospital visits were to First Nations people living in First Nations communities between March 2020 and March 2021, compared to one in seven a year earlier.

The report also notes that fentanyl’s involvement in opioid-related deaths increased dramatically during the pandemic, contributing to 87% of opioid-related deaths among First Nations and aligning with broader trends across the province.

First Nations people were identified in the report using the Indian Registration System database, which includes those eligible for Indian status under the Indian Act.

The heads of Ontario and the Ontario Drug Policy Research Network also released a report Friday analyzing opioid use, related harms and access to treatment among First Nations in Ontario.

“The reports released today are very explicit in providing evidence that governments must correct the underfunding that has been occurring for years to make effective progress in addressing the overdose crisis in First Nations communities,” Hare said.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action urge the federal government to set measurable goals to identify and close the gaps in health outcomes between Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities.

Hare said many First Nations communities have made “great efforts to build community capacity through community-led programs.”

However, he said the work to implement the recommendations of those reports must expand for real progress to occur, to prevent future tragedies and to strengthen the “so desperately needed” healing processes in First Nations communities. Nations.

“I look forward to meeting with all levels of government immediately to coordinate a long-term, First Nations-led strategy to address the opioid crisis affecting First Nations in Ontario,” Hare added.

The Ontario Ministry of Health and Indigenous Services Canada did not immediately comment.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on November 26, 2021.


This story was produced with the financial assistance of Facebook and the Canadian Press News Fellowship.

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