The number of people who are prescribed opioids for pain management is higher in an area that includes Windsor-Essex than any other region in Ontario.

That is the finding of new data released by Public Health Ontario.

Stats are broken down by Local Health Integration Networks, and the data shows 148 people per one-thousand in the Erie St. Clair LHIN were prescribed opioids in 2018.

That is the highest number in the province.

Essex-Windsor EMS Chief Bruce Krauter says it’s an alarming stat, and one that shows why education is important.

“That is one that we're educating the physicians, the surgeons, the primary care providers of really examining when they have to give out an opioid and prescribe an opioid,” says Krauter.

The latest data from Public Health Ontario shows 48 opioid-related deaths in Windsor-Essex in 2018, a 33 per cent increase from 2017. That is higher than any other year of record keeping.

Authorities are also investigating three other deaths that have been deemed ‘probable’.

Stats also show between June 1 and 4 of this year,there were 25 drug-related emergency department visits at Windsor Regional Hospital.

Detroit Red Wings broadcaster Ken Daniels knows the impact of opioids and addictions well. His son Jamie died at the age of 23 in a recovery home in Florida in 2016. He overdosed on heroin laced with fentanyl.

“Addicts don’t want to be addicts,” said Daniels to a large crowd Thursday at Roseland Golf and Country Club, part of a speaker series hosted by the Canadian Mental Health Association of Windsor-Essex County.

"I don't think kids wake up and they think the rest of their lives when they take a pill one day, what's going to happen to them,” added Daniels, who said his son’s addictions started with just a few pills and spiraled out of control.

Medical Officer of Health Dr. Wajid Ahmed says they are working to increase their efforts to try and prevent overdoses and improve harm reduction techniques.

But Chief Krauter says developing an opioid strategy while it's happening is like ‘eating an elephant.’

“You can't eat an elephant in one bite,” says Krauter. “We are tackling the elephant, and we're taking small bites to get results."

The Windsor-Essex Community Opioid and Substance Strategy Leadership Committee is currently working on an application for a supervised injection site.