Northern Ontario EMS try new opioid treatment program

Jun 16, 2023

Earlier in May, the Ontario Ministry of Health gave its approval to Cochrane District EMS to administer the medication buprenorphine-naloxone, also known by its brand name Suboxone.
Suboxone is classified as a narcotic and Cochrane District is the first paramedic service in Canada to carry it and administer it in the field.

“Before, we would treat these patients, offer them [naloxone] … and they would refuse treatment or transport to the hospital,” said Cochrane District EMS operations commander Derrick Cremin in his interview with CTV News.

While naloxone can revive someone from an opioid overdose, it can also result in withdrawal, and patients are likely to resume taking opioids for relief. In contrast, suboxone can reduce opioid withdrawal symptoms, thereby reducing the risk of overdose in the days following suboxone treatment.

“We really didn’t know what happened to them after the overdose. Now, we know that they’re being transported and they’re going to withdrawal management and, hopefully, seeking the help,” said Cremin.
According to Timmins and District Hospital’s addictions and mental health program manager, Pat Nowak, administering suboxone can offer “a gateway to sobriety” for opioid users who truly want to change their lives.

Recent preliminary data released by Ontario’s Office of the Chief Coroner shows that Northern Ontario’s five largest cities continue to have the highest opioid death rates in the province. Moreover, the figures show that the provincial average for opioid-related deaths per 100,000 population was 17.6, compared to the average of 60.1 in northern Ontario’s five largest cities.

In her interview with CBC News, Timmins Mayor Michelle Boileau said it is not surprising that there is a higher opioid-related mortality rate compared to other parts of the province. “I think it is indicative to the fact that we’re facing a unique set of challenges here in the region,” she said.
Specifically, Boilieau said these challenges include inadequate access to treatment services, education and employment, and the generational trauma caused by the residential school system.