A new online opioid tracking tool shows 23 people in Waterloo region died from opioid use in the first six months of 2016.

That's equal to the number of people who died from opioid overdoses in all of 2015.

The tracker also shows between January and September 2016, there were 174 emergency room visits from people with opioid-related issues and 49 cases were hospitalized.

The tool shows data for the entire province and can break it down by health unit or Local Health Integration Network.

Minister of Health and Long-Term Care Dr. Eric Hoskins said the tool is part of the province's "commitment to openness and transparency."

"We have been clear about the urgent need to address the opioid problem," Hoskins said in a release.

"The interactive opioid tracker will help us to better understand how opioid overdose and death is affecting people in Ontario and will strengthen our strategy as we work to combat this crisis in a targeted and informed way."

Opioid tracker graph waterloo region

Local breakdown of deaths, hospital visits

The data goes back to January 2003, although opioid-related deaths aren't listed until 2005.

The tracker shows the number of opioid-related cases seen in hospitals have been steady in Waterloo region, but there was a spike in 2011 and 2012, then have been on the rise since 2014.

In terms of opioid-related deaths, the data shows:

In 2016:

  • January – five deaths.
  • February – two deaths.
  • March – four deaths.
  • April – six deaths (the highest number of deaths on record in the region).
  • May – five deaths.
  • June – one death.

In 2015:

  • January – one death.
  • February – three deaths.
  • March – two deaths.
  • April – two deaths.
  • May – three deaths.
  • June – three deaths.

In 2005:

  • January – one death.
  • February – three deaths.
  • March – no deaths.
  • April – three deaths.
  • May – no deaths.
  • June – three deaths.

The data shows the highest year for opioid deaths in Waterloo region was 2012, when there was 25; however, the 2016 data only includes six months of deaths and is considered preliminary, the tool notes.