Webinar: COVID-19 and substance use

Public Health Ontario is hosting a webinar on COVID-19 and substance use, highlighting new data and the perspectives of people with lived experience.

Date: Tuesday November 10, 2020

Time: 12:00 - 1:00 PM EDT

Register now.

About the presentation

The COVID-19 pandemic and related public health measures  resulted in unintended harms for various groups, including people who use substances. Recent Public Health Ontario (PHO) rapid reviews highlighted growing concerns about increased overdose deaths, and potential mitigation strategies to reduce risks related to substance use during the pandemic. In this session, Regan Murray provides an overview of opioid-related deaths in Ontario during the first few months of the COVID-19 pandemic. Claire Rykelyk-Huizen and Michael Nurse  share findings from a consultation on the impacts of COVID-19 based on interviews with people who use substances, family and friends, harm reduction workers and people providing peer support services. Participants will have the opportunity to discuss the recommendations from these consultations and consider applications to their practice. These findings have implications for both mitigating the harms of the public health response to COVID-19, and addressing the ongoing opioid overdose crisis.

By the end of this session, participants will be able to:

  • Describe trends in opioid-related deaths in Ontario during the initial months of the COVID-19 pandemic
  • Explain how the COVID-19 pandemic has increased harms for people who use substances
  • Identify opportunities to increase supports for people who use substances and reduce risk of overdose


Regan Murray is an Epidemiologist working at the Office of the Chief Coroner for Ontario, placed through the Public Health Agency of Canada’s Canadian Public Health Service. Her work focuses on strengthening surveillance of opioid and other substance related deaths in Ontario.

Claire Rykelyk-Huizen is a Knowledge Broker at the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction. Her work focuses on engaging people with lived and living experience of substance use and amplifying their voices and concerns, as well as conducting research into stigma and the barriers it creates for people who use substances.

Michael Nurse is a person with lived experience of using psychoactive substances, who uses that experience to inform his work as a Harm Reduction Outreach Service Worker in Toronto and to encourage meaningful change in the delivery of services to people who use psychoactive substances, through involvement in  user-groups and other groups, committees and projects.

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