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Ottawa Public Health launches online overdose response training course

Ottawa Public Health has launched a new online training course teaching people how to prevent and treat drug overdoses as the city grapples with a toxic drug supply.

OPH issued a warning last week about increased detection of xylazine and benzodiazepines in street drugs in the city, which can cause overdoses similar to opioids, but which cannot be treated using naloxone.

Speaking to the Ottawa Board of Health Monday night, Medical Officer of Health Dr. Vera Etches said the course, titled Overdose Prevention and Response Training, is targeted towards people who regularly interact with others who might be using drugs.

“This will be a self-directed, 20-minute course online and it’s mainly targeted to people who are school staff, business owners who are wondering what to do, health-care professionals and community and social services staff who interact with people who may need more support,” she said.

The course provides information on types of drugs, drug intoxication and overdose prevention, naloxone, the five steps to respond to an opioid overdose, and available supports.

Etches says the situation in Ottawa requires help from the community and from other levels of government.

“We’re seeing that the demand for mental health and substance use health services has never been higher,” she said. “Existing levels of funding simply aren’t meeting the urgency, scale, and intensity of this unprecedented need.”

New OPH data show that 25 people in Ottawa have died of suspected drug overdoses so far this year. Last week, there were 79 visits to emergency departments in Ottawa for suspected overdoses, the highest reported number so far in 2024.

Etches says OPH is collaborating with many partners in the city to close gaps in the continuum of care for people dealing with addiction.

“The options currently underway with support from many partners include increasing capacity for quickly starting and maintaining people on treatment, developing alternate points of care so that people don’t have to go to emergency departments,” she said. “We’re really looking to provide people with more rapid access, not only to crisis response services, but also ways to connect people to a wider range of trauma supports and treatment options.”

The course and other resources can be found on Ottawa Public Health’s website.

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