Brantford has the most opioid-related emergency room visits of any city in Ontario

"It's a really good question," one official says of why Brantford seems worse than other areas. In Brantford, there are 98.9 visits per 100,000 people.

'It's a really good question,' one official says of why Brantford seems worse than other areas

Hamilton paramedic Heidi Mazelow holds a vial of naloxone, which paramedics use to treat opioid overdoses. A new report shows Brantford, which has its own paramedic service, has the highest number of opioid admissions to emergency departments in Ontario for areas of more than 150,000 people. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

Brantford is the highest city in Ontario for emergency room visits due to opioid poisoning, says a new report from the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI). And the Niagara region is second.

For every 100,000 people, the city's census metropolitan area has 98.9 opioid visits to the emergency room, the report says. The next highest area in Ontario is St. Catharines-Niagara with 72.5 visits.

It's disheartening for those trying to curb opioid addiction in the area, which includes Brant County and part of the Six Nations reserve.

"I can't say that I'm surprised," said Ruth Gratton, manager of infectious disease with the Brant County Health Unit. "But it's very disheartening."

The CIHI report paints a dismal picture in general of opioid addiction in Canada.

In 2016-2017, opioid poisonings resulted in about 16 hospitalizations a day, the report shows. That's up 19 per cent from 2014-2015.

Overall, the report says, there's a 53 per cent increase in hospitalizations nationwide from opioids over the last decade. The fastest growing age group is 15 to 24.

"It's a dramatic increase," said Michael Gaucher, CIHI's director of pharmaceuticals and health workforce information services, in a statement.

Why worse in Brantford? It's unclear

As for why it's worse in Brantford, officials aren't sure.

Aaron Wallace, director of strategic planning and community partnerships with the City of Brantford, has been working on an integrated drug strategy for the area. He said it's baffled health promoters there too.

"It's a really good question," he said. "We haven't been able to really attribute cause, and it's a question that's so important."

Emergency responders have been sharing anecdotal evidence, Wallace said. From that, "we knew we've been grappling."

The city will release its integrated drug strategy, which Six Nations officials collaborated on, in November. That will include education and awareness strategies, Wallace said, and how to target local efforts.

Here's how some other cities fared:

  • Barrie: 69.9 emergency room visits per 100,000 people.
  • Peterborough: 67.3.
  • Thunder Bay: 63.2.
  • Oshawa: 56.4.
  • Hamilton: 56.3.
  • Kitchener-Cambridge-Waterloo: 53.8.

For this report, CIHI included information for individual census metropolitan areas of 100,000 people or more. 


Samantha Craggs is journalist based in Windsor, Ont. She is executive producer of CBC Windsor and previously worked as a reporter and producer in Hamilton, specializing in politics and city hall. Follow her on Twitter at @SamCraggsCBC, or email her at samantha.craggs@cbc.ca