OPP team up in ongoing fight against drug abuse

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Ontario Provincial Police in Norfolk and Haldimand are ramping up their partnership with social service agencies when it comes to substance abuse and members of the community in crisis.

The OPP detachments have announced the launch of the Overdose Automatic Referral (OAR) program.

Under OAR, local officers will contact the Addiction Mobile Outreach Team (AMOT) attached to Community Addiction and Mental Health Services (CAMHS) when alerted to individuals in medical distress due to opioid abuse.

“The OPP are pleased to partner with the Addiction Mobile Outreach Team, which provides support to individuals living with substance-use concerns, problem gambling or concurrent disorders,” said Insp. Joe Varga, chief of the Norfolk OPP. “This program will be utilized and will definitely make a positive impact in our community.”

Norfolk OPP and other forces have forged partnerships with social service agencies in recent year in response to an increasing number of calls involving mental health issues and substance abuse. This is part of a trend toward treating substance abuse as a medical problem and not an issue for law enforcement.

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Norfolk and Haldimand OPP chose Aug. 31 to announce this latest initiative because that day has been declared International Drug Overdose Awareness Day.

Police are trying new approaches because opioid abuse and overdose calls have been a growing problem in North America and elsewhere for the past 15 years.

“Since 2018, Haldimand and Norfolk OPP have been called to investigate and assist in 171 occurrences involving suspected and confirmed fatal and near-fatal opioid overdoses,” the news release said.

“Of those occurrences, 28 were fatalities. In 2020 alone, the (local) OPP have attended 68 opioid-related calls for service, nine of which were fatal.”

AMOT is comprised of addiction counsellors, peer workers who have personal experience with addiction, and a nurse practitioner who is available to provide primary care for addicts who lack a family doctor. As the name suggests, the team is available to meet individuals in crisis in the community.

Supports include assessment, referral, counselling, and assistance navigating health and social service networks. AMOT is on call in Haldimand and Norfolk seven days a week from 8:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. AMOT can be reached by calling 519-426-8760 or 1-877-909-4357 ext. 1120.

“CAMHS is thrilled to be expanding upon our partnership with the OPP across Haldimand and Norfolk through this new initiative,” Nancy Harding, CEO of CAMHS in the local area, said. “The OPP’s continued commitment to partner for creative solutions to meet the needs of our community is impressive.”

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