A refreshed drug strategy has been developed to address the ongoing harms associated with the current drug toxicity crisis being experienced in the region. The Simcoe Muskoka Drug Strategy (SMDS) will build on the work achieved by the Simcoe Muskoka Opioid Strategy (SMOS) from 2017 to 2022.
“In the past five years, SMOS has built a strong foundation in our communities through the commitment and collaboration among the community partnerships across the region,” says Mia Brown, manager of the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit’s, Substance Use and Injury Prevention program and co-chair of SMDS. “As a newly restructured and renamed drug strategy, we look forward to participating in ongoing discussions and priority setting to address the needs of people in our communities experiencing the profound effects of the toxic drug crisis.”
Substance use is complex and has continued to evolve over time. The toxicity of the street supply of unregulated substances increased during the COVID-19 pandemic and continues to be a driving factor of the current drug toxicity crisis. This situation contributed to 140 individuals losing their lives to opioid poisonings in Simcoe Muskoka in 2022, a number substantially higher than what was seen before the pandemic, both locally and across the province.
Through multi-sector collaboration, SMDS established two subcommittees: the Community Partner Advisory Committee, which began meeting in 2023 and the People Who Use Drugs/Peer Advisory Committee, which is under development. In addition to the two advisory committees, newly formed working groups have been created to address the initial priorities identified below:
- Address access to first-line medical treatment for opioid use disorders (opioid agonist treatment options).
- Raise awareness about the current drug toxicity crisis and explore additional harm reduction measures such as decriminalization of personal use of substances as one part of the solution.
- Increase access to substance use-specific bereavement supports for the community and service providers.
The advisory committees will monitor emerging issues and will respond to local and regional community needs as they arise.
“We are looking forward to intentionally creating spaces for people who use and who have used drugs to bring their expertise to the conversations around how best to support people who are most impacted by the drug policies contributing to the current drug crises,” says Sarah Tilley, harm reduction manager, Gilbert Centre, and member of SMDS.
For more information about the Simcoe Muskoka Drug Strategy, visit www.smdhu.org/SMDS.