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Media Release: Overdose awareness especially important during pandemic

Hastings and Prince Edward Counties/Aug. 31, 2020

International Overdose Awareness Day takes place on August 31st of each year with an aim to raise awareness of overdose, reduce stigma associated with drug related deaths, and remember those who have died or suffered permanent injury due to drug overdose. While awareness of the risk and impact of overdose is always important, it is especially relevant this year as the world experiences the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

While everyone has been impacted by the pandemic, many individuals who experience substance use disorders are at an increased risk due to closures, isolation, and changes in services and support. Over the month of April, there was a 50% increase in opioid related deaths in Ontario*. In addition, Hastings and Prince Edward County was one of five regions in the province to see a 30% increase in hospital attended overdoses in 2020*.

The impacts of pandemic related isolation, changes in service delivery, and presence of contaminated drugs in the community, have increased the risk of overdose in Hastings and Prince Edward Counties.  While some support services have had to modify their service delivery model due to the pandemic, individuals who use drugs are encouraged to take steps to use as safely as possible. Harm reduction supplies continue to be available at our Belleville, Trenton, and Bancroft offices. Consider additional precautions to use as safely as possible during the pandemic. If you must use alone, call the Overdose Prevention Line at 1-888-853-8542. When you call this confidential and judgement free service, the operator will stay on the phone with you while you use drugs, and will call 911 and advise of possible overdose if they do not receive a response after drugs are administered.

Overdose can happen to anyone, including people who use street drugs and people who may use a prescription incorrectly. Substance use disorders can also affect anyone, as addiction and mental health disorders are complex, and are impacted by a number of factors outside of their control. It is important that people with substance use disorders are treated with the same dignity and respect as those experiencing any other health issue.

Community members are encouraged to familiarize themselves with the signs of an overdose and know how to respond to an overdose. If you experience a substance use disorder, you are not alone. Visit our mental and emotional health during COVID-19 web page for resources and support options.  For more information, visit

*As compared to 2019


Media Contact:

Maureen Hyland, Communications Specialist

About Hastings Prince Edward Public Health

Hastings Prince Edward Public Health (HPEPH) is a public health agency that serves the counties of Hastings and Prince Edward from four local offices. We monitor the health of our local population, deliver programs and services within our communities, and help develop healthy public policies. We provide information and support in many areas to help improve the health and well-being of our residents. Together with our communities, we help people become as healthy as they can be. For more information, please visit You can also find us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter.

Frequently Asked Questions

How will I know if someone has overdosed?

Signs of overdose include:

  • Being unresponsive or not waking up easily
  • Breathing is slow or not present
  • Nails and lips are blue
  • The body is limp
  • The person is choking or throwing up
  • The person is making gurgling or snoring sounds
  • The skin is cold and clammy

What can I do if I think someone has overdosed?

If you suspect someone has overdosed, call 911, give naloxone and stay with the person until help arrives.

Is our community experiencing an increase in overdoses?

Hastings Prince Edward County was one of five regions to see a 30% increase in hospital attended overdoses in 2020 for the same period in 2019. Previously, the all time high of hospital attended overdoses in Hastings and Prince Edward Counties was 19 (February 2019). In May 2020, the region experienced 22 hospital attended overdoses. Our hospitals have continued to see 19-22 opioid overdoses per month since April.

What is the purpose of Naloxone kits?

Naloxone kits temporarily reverse the effects of an opioid related overdose, so the individual can receive medical treatment. These kits prevent avoidable deaths and provide individuals with the opportunity to recover. HPEPH recognizes that individuals who are at risk of overdose, and those experiencing substance use disorders are valued members of our community and we are working with community partners to help connect them with the supports that can assist in recovery.

What is the Good Samaritan Act?

The Good Samaritan Drug Overdose Act provides an exemption from charges of possession of a controlled substance, as well as other violations, for individuals who call 911 in response to an overdose, or who are on the scene when emergency help arrives.

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All individuals ≥ 5 yrs of age are eligible to receive a COVID-19 bivalent booster dose 6 months after previous COVID-19 vaccine.

Appointments can be booked through the provincial vaccine booking site, or by calling 1-833-943-3900 from 8 am to 8 pm, 7 days a week.  


For the most up to date information on current provincial guidelines and advice in case of exposure, visit

The Ministry of Health has launched a toll-free line as an additional resource to help answer questions from the public regarding evolving COVID-19 testing and isolation guidance. The line can be reached at 1-888-777-0730, and is available from 8 am to 6 pm, 7 days a week. Beginning April 3, hours for this line will change to Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.