The gravity of the opioid crisis has sparked Hamilton Mayor Fred Eisenberger and the city's public health officials to convene a "opioid response summit" later this month.

The mayor also announced Tuesday he'll spend a ride-along with the city's syringe exchange program "to observe firsthand the situation in our community at street-level."

The summit will focus on opioids, especially the high-potency drugs like fentanyl and carfentanil that have shown up in Hamilton. 

"This is an issue we take very seriously," Eisenberger said in a statement announcing the summit on Tuesday. "Ultimately we want to prevent overdoses and deaths, and promote health in the community."

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City officials have been taking precautions to avoid exposure to carfentanil, a deadly synthetic drug 10,000 times stronger than heroin. The drug is meant to be used as an animal tranquilizer and is sometimes cut in to counterfeit pills that look like other drugs.

There have been more opioid-related deaths in the Hamilton LHIN over a five-year period than anywhere else in the province, according to a study released last November out of the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences.

The report also shows that the Hamilton LHIN (which includes Niagara, Haldimand and Brant) had the highest number of opioid-related hospital admissions and emergency department visits in the entire province in 2014.

The mayor listened in on a conference in Ottawa last November, and said he heard then that opioid misuse has been "characterized as a crisis in Canada, with dire warnings and predictions for the situation worsening in the eastern provinces."

The summit will include representatives from: 

  • Coroner
  • Hamilton Police Service
  • Hamilton Paramedic Service
  • Hamilton Fire Department
  • Emergency departments
  • Primary care
  • Community health organizations
  • Addictions and harm reduction services
  • Housing
  • Those with lived experience

                                                                                   

With files from Adam Carter