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CAMH Stories Centre for Addiction
and Mental Health

CAMH is coming together to help address the opioid crisis

The ongoing opioid crisis has captured considerable media attention of late, but the focus on opioids is not new for CAMH. CAMH is leading a series of diverse initiatives focused on education, improving access to clinical services at the hospital, and improving addiction services across the province.
What are some of the key initiatives undertaken by CAMH?

The CAMH Opioid Internal Network (COIN)

COIN was initiated by Dr. Peter Selby in spring 2015 and is supported by the Provincial System Support Program.  COIN includes a diverse group of stakeholders from research, policy, practice, education and system support. The network aims to facilitate collaboration across CAMH, align current initiatives, and share resources. 

2017 Opioid Use Disorder in Primary Care Conference

CAMH Education has taken the lead in organizing the 2017 Opioid Use Disorder in Primary Care Conference. The upcoming November 24th conference will cover topics such as recent guidelines for the prescription of opioids for pain and for opioid use disorder treatment; naloxone as an antidote to opioid overdose; and injectable opioid agonist treatments.

CAMH also offers a variety of courses on problematic opioid use for health care staff. The Opioid Problems, Treatment Solutions online course provides an introduction to problematic opioid use for allied health professionals, and the Opioid Dependence Treatment Certificate provides advanced information to prepare physicians, pharmacists, nurses and counsellors to provide a comprehensive range of services for people with problematic opioid use.

Faster access to care

To address the increased number of opioid-related overdoses in Toronto, the Addiction Medicine Service (AMS) has focused on getting those who come to CAMH with substance use concerns connected with a clinician faster than ever before. Clients who come to AMS are given an appointment within the same day or the following day.

Additional overdose prevention efforts have led CAMH Pharmacy to develop an Opioid Overdose Prevention Strategy, through which naloxone kits are distributed by a dedicated CAMH pharmacist to clients and family members. Maria Zhang and Dr. Beth Sproule have also delivered naloxone training sessions for CAMH staff and clinicians.

Provincial efforts

PSSP’s Drug and Alcohol Treatment Information System team is working with the Ministry of Health And Long-Term Care and various stakeholders to implement a comprehensive harm reduction service database to meet the reporting needs of provincially-funded harm reduction programs. The database will allow workers in ministry-funded harm reduction programs to collect information about services and clients, and control inventory in a standardized way. The information collected will help service providers manage and plan their programs, and increase the ability of decision-makers to monitor and analyze trends.

Also sitting in PSSP is the Opioid Resource Hub (ORH). ORH works to produce resources for health care providers, and currently supports two communities of practice focused on overdose prevention and reducing opioid-related harms in Ontario. ORH also works in collaboration with the Registered Nurses Association of Ontario to lead a series of webinars focused on problematic opioid use. In summer it hosted the Opioids through the Life Span series, featuring Dr. Jonathan Bertram, a CAMH expert on opioid related harms for older adults.

In addition, this summer, CAMH received funding for a pilot project to expand and improve addictions treatment within family health teams. The project, led by Dr. Peter Selby, will focus on how to identify those who have problematic substance use and how to provide appropriate evidence-informed treatment within family health teams.

Research at CAMH

CAMH is also involved in research and in developing treatment guidelines for problematic opioid use. CAMH is serving as the principal host organization for the CRISM (Canadian Research Initiative in Substance Misuse) Ontario Node. CRISM will soon be publishing the first-ever national clinical treatment guideline for opioid use disorder.  The National Opioid Use Disorder Guidelines were developed under the leadership of Dr. Benedikt Fischer. CAMH is also involved in the pan-Canadian OPTIMA study, a multi-site randomized study on treatments for prescription opioid disorder. 

To learn more about the diverse initiatives that CAMH has taken to address the opioid crisis click here.
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