Toronto police issue warning about spike in suspected overdose deaths

Fentanyl pills are shown in an undated police handout photo. (The Canadian Press/HO - Alberta Law Enforcement Response Teams)

Toronto police are issuing a warning about a high number of suspected drug overdose deaths in the midtown area over the past two weeks.

Police were called to the latest fatal incident at around 12:45 a.m. this morning. Officers responded to a property in the area of Dupont Street and Spadina Road, where they found a man and a woman — both 39 years old — unresponsive.

Emergency crews tried to resuscitate the two, but were unsuccessful and they were pronounced dead at the scene.

In a news release Thursday, Toronto police said there have been “a number of suspected overdoses” in 53 Division over the past two weeks, including four deaths which occurred as a result of suspected drug consumption.

“The majority of the overdoses are linked to fentanyl but officers await toxicology reports on several others,” police said.

The boundaries of the division stretch roughly from Bloor Street to Lawrence Avenue north-south, and from Bathurst Street in the west to the Don River in the east.

“The Toronto Police Service wants to remind people that if they are taking drugs to use extreme caution and do not take them alone,” police said in their release. “If anyone suffers serious illness after consuming a narcotic, they should attend a hospital emergency room, call 9-1-1, or go to a walk-in clinic immediately for treatment.”

The warning from Toronto police comes just days after Ontario's new top doctor said that he is "actively working on the response” to the opioid crisis.

“It saddens me deeply, the ongoing deaths of younger people in all of our communities across Ontario,” Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore told reporters. “It's very near and dear to me as an investigating coroner, as a family physician, emergency physician, and now as a public health doctor.”

He acknowledged that Ontario’s effort to deal with the crisis “needs a rejuvenation” and said that he is consulting with his counterparts in other provinces, as well as local colleagues on the matter.

“We need to double down on all we're doing from an addictions mental health vantage point, to opioid agonist therapies to Naloxone to consumption and treatment sites to enhance rapid access addiction medicine clinics and harnessing primary care emergency medicine to be able to provide for the needs of these patients.

“I am very aware of its devastation to families at a very deep and personal level, and I just want to assure you I will be fully committed to responding to this threat on an ongoing basis once we can get COVID under control and we've started working on that strategically within my office already.”

Moore said he’s formed a small task force with Ontario Chief Coroner Dr. Dirk Huyer to address policy concerns and health system changes that can be adopted.

Those in need of a substance use treatment facility can visit the Connex Ontariowebsite or call 211. The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health can be reached at 1-800-463-2338.