Ontario announces new funding, naloxone distribution plan in battle against opioid crisis

The province says it will fund new front-line health workers and distribute nearly 80,000 naloxone kits to strengthen its opioid strategy.

Toronto Public Health will hire five new front-line health workers with the additional funding

The provicne says the new measures strengthen what is already among Canada's most robust opioid strategies. (John Moore/Getty Images)

Ontario says it will fund more front-line health workers and distribute almost 80,000 naloxone kits to combat the province's ongoing opioid crisis.

Health minister Eric Hoskins says the new measures further strengthen Ontario's robust opioid strategy and will help reduce the number of overdose deaths sweeping the province.

While comprehensive, up-to-date statistics are difficult to find, it is believed that hundreds of Ontarians are dying of opioid overdoses every year.

"I truly believe that it is the most forward-looking and advanced strategy to deal with the opioid crisis of any jurisdiction across the country," Hoskins told reporters at a Monday news conference.

With the new funding, Toronto Public Health will hire five new health workers, four of them full-time, to work in addiction outreach, education and planning. The new employees will also contribute to early warnings and surveillance of opioid overdoses.

"More frontline workers such as [Minister Hoskins] announced his support for today will help Toronto improve education and look for early warning signs of overdoses," said Toronto Mayor John Tory, who added that the new measures will potentially save "many, many lives."

The province says it will extend similar funding to each of Ontario's public health units, up to a maximum of four new workers per unit.

Ontario Health Minister Eric Hoskins says each of the province's local health units will have funding to hire more front-line health workers. (Christopher Katsarov/Canadian Press)

Public health units around the province will also receive up to 80,000 naloxone kits over the next year. The potentially life-saving drug can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose if administered in time.

"This new program will ensure that, hopefully, every person who is at risk of an opioid overdose has access to naloxone," Hoskins said.

Ontario made the announcement inside Toronto's Works Needle Exchange Program, which will soon act as another arm in the province's opioid strategy.

The site is one of three planned locations for Toronto's upcoming supervised injection sites.

The sites were approved by Health Canada earlier this year and will be fully funded by the province at a cost of $3.5 million.