TORONTO — The City of Toronto has laid out a strategy in response to a spike in suspected opioid-related deaths in recent weeks with measures that include speeding up the opening of three supervised injection sites.
Mayor John Tory says the city will also step up training for paramedics and firefighters in areas the city has flagged as having the highest number of calls for service and increasing public education on the issue.
Tory announced the measures Thursday after an emergency meeting with the city's first responders and some city councillors in response to at least four overdose deaths in the past week.
The mayor says he also plans to ask city police to consider distributing naloxone, which can be used to reverse opioid overdoses, to certain officers.
The city is also mulling bulk purchases of naloxone as part of its efforts for quicker distribution to necessary personnel.
Toronto police issued a public warning alert last weekend as the number of deaths and overdoses believed to be related to opioid use skyrocketed.
"These are unimaginable tragedies and, make no mistake, an overdose death is a preventable death," Tory said in a statement. "Today, I asked our first responders to ensure we are doing everything as fast as fast as possible to implement Toronto's Overdose Action Plan."
Police said four people died and more than 20 people overdosed between Thursday and Sunday of last week.
While the cause of the incidents was not confirmed in most cases, police said they believed fentanyl may have played a role. The potent drug can be fatal, even in trace elements that may have been laced into supplies of other drugs.
Two young women died in an apartment in the city's west end Tuesday in what paramedics called suspected overdoses.
Last year, the province of British Columbia reported 935 deaths related to opioid use.
More recent statistics suggest the surge has not subsided. As recently as this June, Vancouver police said drug overdoses killed 25 people that month alone.