PHO Grand Rounds: COVID-19 and Substance Use

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PHO Grand Rounds: COVID-19 and Substance Use – Highlighting New Data and the Perspectives of People with Lived Experience

About this Event

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.

Intended audience:

Public health units, municipal drug strategies, other community health and social care organizations and professionals working to reduce overdose deaths.

The objectives of the webinar are to:

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

About the presenters: Regan Murray, Claire Rykelyk-Huizen and Michael Nurse

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.


The opinions expressed by speakers and moderators do not necessarily reflect the official policies or views of Public Health Ontario, nor does the mention of trade names, commercial practices, or organizations imply endorsement by Public Health Ontario.

Please note that you will receive details on how to join the webinar after registering for this event.

PHO Grand Rounds are approved for continuing medical education from the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons. PHO Grand Rounds are also approved by Council of Professional Experience for professional development hours (PDHs) for members of the Canadian Institute of Public Health Inspectors (CIPHI). For more information, contact .

Stay up-to-date on upcoming events and calls for abstracts by visiting our calendar.

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Public Health Ontario is committed to complying with the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA). If you require accommodations to participate in this event, please contact 647-260-7100 or .

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