Lack of drug poisoning data in rural Wellington County is a barrier to decisions, says drug strategy manager

A real-time information tracking system in Guelph has been delayed in rolling out to the county

WELLINGTON COUNTY – Fatal and non-fatal drug poisoning data in Wellington County is not tracked as closely as in Guelph, creating a barrier to decision-making.

Adrienne Crowder, Wellington Guelph’s Drug Strategy (WGDS) manager, explained that drug poisoning data, considered a more accurate term than “drug overdoses,” is tracked by WDG Public Health’s FAST system in Guelph. .

The FAST system collects real-time information on poisonings and substance-related incidents to track trends and patterns in the city.

For example, Crowder said this means that if there have been multiple drug poisoning deaths in the same area at the same time, an alert can be issued to warn of a toxic supply in the community.

This system is not in place in Wellington County, which Crowder says makes it difficult to issue similar warnings in Wellington County and make decisions in all aspects related to it.

“Without accurate data, there is no information on the incidence, prevalence, and demographics related to drug poisoning,” Crowder said. “This information is needed by the health system, local politicians, social services, police and others so they can discern what is really going on in the county.”

That’s not the fault of WDG Public Health, which Crowder said was working to bring the system to Wellington County.

However, a global pandemic has forced public health to redeploy a majority of staff to focus on pandemic-related issues.

Danny Williamson, spokesman for WDG Public Health, confirmed by email that work moving that system to Wellington County has slowed due to the pandemic, but they are monitoring hospital visits related to a drug poisoning.

Data is not yet available for 2021, but Crowder data provided by the Guelph-Wellington Paramedic Service showed that in Wellington County there were 70 EMS transports for suspected drug poisonings in 2020.

Crowder mentioned that this data is slightly imprecise and does not provide as clear a picture as in the case of Guelph.

Crowder said she understands the reason for the delay, but it’s been difficult to put addiction issues on the priority list, often due to the stigma of people with substance abuse issues.

She said in an email that people who suffer from addiction are often seen as choosing to have a problem rather than experience a physiological addiction brought on by life’s challenges.

“The blame-the-victim attitude that is often prevalent in our culture takes away the political will to fix the problem,” Crowder said. “When drug addiction and substance use dependence are viewed as health issues and treated as health issues requiring support and/or treatment, this change in attitude allows the problem to be managed and solved rather than to ignore it, judge it or criminalize it.”