Greater Sudbury community leaders united in addressing drug toxicity harms and deathsIssued: Thursday, December 7, 2023
Close to 200 community leaders convened today and will again tomorrow for the Greater Sudbury Summit on Toxic Drugs (Summit). Over the two-day Summit, participants will hear from over 35 experts (PDF, 6 MB) and engage in dialogue to review the magnitude of—and response to—the toxic drug crisis.
According to the Office of the Chief Coroner for Ontario, people from across Northern Ontario are dying from opioid-related deaths at a rate almost three times higher than the rest of the province (PDF, 3 MB). These rates remain especially high in Greater Sudbury despite many sectors working on substance-use prevention, harm reduction, treatment, and enforcement. In response to this escalating and complex crisis, the City of Greater Sudbury, the Board of Health for Public Health Sudbury & Districts, and the Greater Sudbury Police Service all endorsed motions calling for a local leadership summit on the drug toxicity crisis.
The Summit is unfolding over two days, with an agenda that includes diverse viewpoints—grounded in a profound respect for individuals with lived and living experience of the toxic drug crisis and a deep appreciation for Indigenous perspectives, given how deeply the tragedy is affecting Indigenous peoples.
To begin the Summit, participants heard presentations from Public Health Sudbury & Districts and the Ontario Drug Policy Research Network which highlighted the statistics and the characteristics of the crisis. Following these presentations, those directly impacted by the effects of drug toxicity shared their impactful, personal stories.
A comprehensive overview of the factors impacting individuals who use substances was covered by three panel discussions. These panels covered health promotion and stigma (PDF), wrap-around services (PDF), and substance use care (PDF), and provided insight into how these three approaches are all critical for a successful community response to such a complex issue. Participants then engaged in group discussions to assess what they heard in search of solutions and actions to combat the crisis. Participants were also provided with training in life-saving naloxone administration and took part in a sweetgrass braid teaching and a purple ribbon ceremony.
Tomorrow, Summit participants will reconvene to further their understanding of the crisis and what can be done locally. They will hear from presenters from Wiikwemkoong Unceded Territory on Manitoulin Island, experts from British Columbia, local industry, and Public Health Ontario. They will then work with the emerging themes from all the discussions and presentations to identify potential actions, priorities, and next steps to save lives and create a healthier, safer community.
Public Health Sudbury & Districts (Public Health) published an executive summary on how Northern Ontario has been and continues to be disproportionately impacted by the toxic drug crisis. In the new year, Public Health will publish a final report detailing discussions, decisions, and next steps resulting from the Summit. For more information, visit www.phsd.ca/clinics-classes-events/toxic-drug-summit.