London, ON – Weather conditions are coming together to make tomorrow a beautiful time to enjoy St. Patrick’s Day celebrations. But with the sunshine, warmer temperatures and a Saturday to enjoy the festivities, the Middlesex-London Health Unit and its partners are calling on would-be revelers to plan ahead and think about their personal safety especially if they plan to drink or use drugs. Surveillance data from healthcare sources to the Health Unit has indicated a possible increase in the number of suspected opioid-related overdoses in the region over the last few weeks. This news, combined with the reality that the potentially lethal drug Fentanyl is being found mixed in with other street drugs, makes it critically important to take steps to reduce the risk of injury, overdose or death.
For months, the MLHU has worked with partners including the London Police Service, Regional HIV/AIDS Connection, the Canadian Mental Health Association, London Intercommunity Health Centre, the Southwest Ontario Aboriginal Health Access Centre, London CAReS and Addiction Services of Thames Valley to address the local public health emergency resulting from the drug crisis.
“Through our consultations around plans for a permanent supervised consumption facility, the effort to create the Temporary Overdose Prevention Site and working with our partners, we know that we are in the middle of multiple drug crises. While we may be seeing an increase in overdoses, we know that we could see a spike in drug use tomorrow that could have tragic consequences,” says Dr. Chris Mackie, Medical Officer of Health and CEO at the Middlesex-London Health Unit. “If you’re going to be partying hard tomorrow and opioid drugs factor into your plans, do not use alone and make sure to have a Naloxone kit with you.”
Naloxone kits are available through the Health Unit and through local pharmacies across Ontario for people who use opioid drugs like Fentanyl, as well as for the friends and family of those who use. The kits contain Naloxone, which is a drug that can reverse an opioid-related overdose, potentially saving a life and making it possible to receive urgent medical care.
The London Police Service will be a very visible presence during St. Patrick’s Day and is calling on those who celebrate to do so in a safe and respectful manner.
“We want people to enjoy themselves but if they are going to celebrate the day, we just ask that they do so responsibly,” said London Police Deputy Chief Steve Williams. “We will be fair but we will be enforcing the law. Public safety is our number one priority.”
The Health Unit also recommends that people consider limiting their alcohol intake during celebrations. The Health Unit’s Rethink Your Drinking campaign provides suggestions, tips and resources. For more details, visit: www.healthunit.com/alcohol-and-other-drugs.
Dan Flaherty, Communications Manager, Middlesex-London Health Unit,
519-663-5317 extension 2469 or 519-617-0570 (cell)
Dr. Chris Mackie, Medical Officer of Health / CEO, Middlesex-London Health Unit