As opioid overdoses continue to rise, police are looking for new ways to get the message out about the deadly crisis.
The OPP organized a consultation Tuesday that brought together representatives from the fields of mental health care and addictions, as well as local media.
“The impacted community doesn’t necessarily trust what we’re saying,” OPP Supt. Bryan MacKillop acknowledged during the session at the Best Western Mariposa Inn.
The consultation was a way for police to gather new ideas on how to communicate the urgency of the crisis and come up with new ways to tackle it.
“We’re treading water, and I’m terrified what the next drug will be,” MacKillop said of the need to develop a strategy.
“In this world and in this generation, how do we communicate in an effective way?”
Police have taken part in many consultations about the opioid problem, but they came to realize an important voice was missing from the table: media. They are holding similar sessions in other areas of the province.
Insp. Veronica Eaton, commander of Orillia OPP, said the increasing number of opioid-related deaths is unlike anything the force has seen, and that’s what led to these latest consultations.
“It’s the rate of overdoses. People are thinking they’re taking a drug and don’t realize what they’re taking, which is a very dangerous thing,” she said of certain drugs being cut with fentanyl or other opioids. “It’s a bad situation in Orillia, but it’s province-wide.”
Suggestions included a more active presence on social media, as well as making photos, sound bites and video part part of media releases sent out by police.
It was also noted that to get the message across, it has to be about more than statistics; people should realize the human impact — the stories of those affected by the opioid crisis.
Mayor Steve Clarke attended the session and praised police for having become “more progressive” in recent years, shifting the focus from traditional enforcement to one that includes closer relationships with mental health professionals.
“Co-ordination and collaboration is the barrier that needs to be overcome,” he said.
The Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit, which was also represented at the event, has an opioid strategy and makes information available on its website.