Public health officials say the problem of opioid overdose is growing in Ontario and in Simcoe Muskoka.
Dr. Jennifer Loo says there were 36 opioid related deaths in Simcoe Muskoka in 2013, and to put that into context, she says that is similar to the number of deaths that would be seen in Simcoe Muskoka for motor vehicle crashes in a year.
Loo says the deaths are potentially related to fentanyl, which has been contaminating street drugs and found in counterfeit pills sold on the street.
Opioids are a group of drugs and medications that are used to treat pain, and also include morphine and codeine.
In 2014, in Simcoe County alone, the coroner reported 23 deaths from opioid's, 11 of those in Barrie.
Between 2000 and 2003, there were fewer than 10 deaths per year in Simcoe Muskoka related to opioid use.
Last October in Barrie, in a span of a few hours, five people were found unconscious after the group took cocaine believed to have been laced with fentanyl.
Loo says they are working with partner agencies to combat the opioid problem through prevention, treatment and harm reduction.
In the area of prevention, that means drug and alcohol education to youth, treatment and addiction support services through health care providers, and since 2002, the health unit and other agencies have operated an exchange works program, providing safer inhalation and safer injection kits to people who use drugs.
Loo says research has shown that this type of program is very effective in reducing the harm related to drug-use, specifically around infectious disease like hepatitis C and HIV.
She says it is important to continue to talk to partner agencies and other levels of government to respond to this issue.