Waterloo Region is a caring community that is committed to working together to respond to the opioid crisis through the Waterloo Region Opioid Response Plan.

What is the Waterloo Region Opioid Response Plan?

Problematic substance use, including opioids, is a complex health and social issue. It often intersects with other social determinants of health including poverty, mental health, homelessness, and social exclusion. Solutions need to be comprehensive, with partnership across sectors, and the involvement of people directly impacted by substance use and their communities.

The Waterloo Region Opioid Response Plan builds on the existing work of community partners and details the community’s comprehensive and integrated response to opioid issues. The plan lists and describes strategies that are currently happening in Waterloo Region to address the opioid crisis. It also identifies strategies that are needed, either new strategies or enhancement of existing strategies.

Who is involved in Waterloo Region's Opioid Response Plan? 

The Waterloo Region Integrated Drugs Strategy (WRIDS) has been working to address issues of problematic substance use and most recently, the opioid crisis. The Steering Committee and Subcommittees use a four pillar approach underlined by the principle of integration:

•Harm Reduction
•Recovery and Rehabilitation
•Enforcement and Justice

To continue that work and meet public health requirements for the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, a WRIDS Special Committee on Opioid Response was established, to coordinate the development of a community opioid response plan.

Membership includes representation from the following sectors:

•Crime Prevention and Police Services
•First Responders
•Health and Community Services
•Municipal Government

Development of the Waterloo Region Opioid Response Plan was informed by an environmental scan of opioid response plans from other communities, direction from the Special Committee, and input from a cross-sectoral key stakeholder consultation, including people with lived experience of substance use.

View the Special Committees' Terms of Reference.

What is Included in the Waterloo Region Opioid Response Plan? 

Although the scope of the plan is focused on the community opioid response, it identifies opioids as one family of drugs that are part of the broader issue of problematic substance use, a complex health issue which intersects with the social determinants of health. The plan includes:

•A description of the federal and provincial opioid response to date
•Opioid-related data for Waterloo Region
•A list of existing opioid response strategies currently underway in Waterloo Region
•Proposed strategies for Waterloo Region to further address opioid issues

The plan is organized by the four pillars of the Waterloo Region Integrated Drugs Strategy and highlights the fifth principle of integration. One strategy from each pillar is listed below as an example:

•Waterloo Region Youth Engagement Strategy (Prevention)
•Expansion of the Naloxone Distribution Program (Harm Reduction)
•Rapid Access Addiction Medicine Clinics (Recovery and Rehabilitation)
•Good Samaritan Drug Overdose Act Implementation Strategy (Enforcement and Justice)
•Integrated Opioid Response Communication Strategy (Integration and Communication)

The plan will be updated based on the needs of the community and the changing opioid situation. For more information see the full version of the Waterloo Region Opioid Response Plan.


 What Strategies were Identified for Prioritization?


Through stakeholder consultation, strategic actions to address opioid-related issues in Waterloo Region were identified and prioritized. Three strategies were selected for priority implementation:


  1. Waterloo Region – Youth Engagement Strategy (WR-YES)

This strategy is lead by the Waterloo Region Crime Prevention Council and fits within the Prevention pillar. The goal of this strategy is to increase equity in the engagement of youth by intentionally addressing the needs of youth furthest from opportunities. Intended impacts that include, but are not limited to, delayed onset of substance use, reduced involvement in the criminal justice system, decreased risk for trauma and victimization, and increased sense of belonging.


  1. Mental Health and Addictions Supports and Housing Services

This strategy is lead by Waterloo Region Housing and fits within the Recovery and Rehabilitation pillar. The goal is to provide better, coordinated housing access to affordable housing with specialized addiction services, increasing the number of individuals with substance use and mental health impacts who are housed and maintain housing, decreasing the amount of emergency response and intervention, and improving integration in the housing community.


  1. Appropriate, Connected, Caring, Engaged, Sufficient, and Supportive – ACCESS to Care for People Who Use Substances

This strategy is lead by a substance use treatment strategic working group and fits within the principle of Integration across pillars. The goal is to develop a Waterloo Region Substance Use Treatment System resource to inform system improvement, prioritizing areas for development, enhancement, integration, and advocacy. The intended impact is to increase the capacity of our substance use treatment system to meet the current needs of the community.

What are the Next Steps?

Each strategy is unique and at different stages of implementation. The strategy leads provide information to the Special Committee through common reporting tools to ensure strategic opportunities for integration.


Progress will be measured on identified strategies and progress reports will be provided to Regional Council. The Waterloo Region Opioid Response Plan has been submitted to the Ministry of Health. Long term outcomes will be monitored as part of the ongoing work of the Waterloo Region Integrated Drugs Strategy.

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