International Overdose Awareness Day

One of the biggest challenges facing our community is, without a doubt, the opioid and tainted drug supply crisis.

Later today, Positive Living Niagara, OPIRG Brock, Silver Spire United Church, and Willow Arts Community are holding a rally at City Hall and Community March from City Hall to Silver Spire.

Unfortunately, I am unable to attend, as I have commitments with clients and members (youth and adult) at the boxing club from 4:30pm through 7:15pm; however, I cannot stress enough how important this issue is to St. Catharines and Niagara.

Whilst calls to 911 for overdose have been lower in the first six months of this year than the same time last year, we have to remember that many people won’t call for help, because of concerns about law enforcement, etc. The problem of the opioid and tainted drug supply crisis is further complicated by a lack of safe affordable housing and by food insecurity. There are many facets to solving this problem.

In June, I brought the following motion to Public Health and Social Services Committee, and we will continue to call on the province to assist us locally with the appropriate resources and funding.

(St. Catharines voters, please take note: One of your mayoral candidates seconded this motion; the other was the sole vote against it.)

June 14, 2022 – Motion – Response to the Opioid Crisis in Ontario

Whereas communities require concrete, rather than symbolic, and specific actions to address the opioid crisis.

Whereas overdoses from opioids, especially, but also other substances, has increased markedly province-wide as well as in Niagara due to the stress and disruption brought on by the pandemic.

Be it resolved that
1. Regional Council as the Board of Health ENDORSE the letter from Simcoe-Muskoka District Health Unit Board of Health to the Hon. Christine Elliott on March 16, 2022 in response to the Opioid Crisis province-wide, advocating for the provincial government to take the following actions:

a. Create a multisectoral task force to guide the development of a robust provincial opioid response plan that will ensure necessary resourcing, policy change, and health and social system coordination.

b. Expand access to evidence informed harm reduction programs and practices including lifting the provincial cap of 21 Consumption and Treatment Service (CTS) Sites, funding Urgent Public Health Needs Sites (UPHNS) and scaling up safer supply options.

c. Revise the current CTS model to address the growing trends of opioid poisoning amongst those who are using inhalation methods.

d. Expand access to opioid agonist therapy for opioid use disorder through a range of settings (e.g. mobile outreach, primary care, emergency departments, Rapid Access to Addition Medicine Clinics), and a variety of medication options.

e. Provide a long-term financial commitment to create more affordable and supportive housing for people in need, including people with substance use disorders.

f. Address the structural stigma and harms that discriminate against people who use drugs, through provincial support and advocacy to the Federal government to decriminalize personal use and possession of substances and ensure increased investments in health and social services at all levels.

g. Increase investments in evidence-informed substance use prevention and mental health promotion initiatives, that provide foundational support for the health, safety and well-being of individuals, families, and neighbourhoods, beginning from early childhood.

h. Fund additional and dedicated positions for local public health to support the critical local coordination and leadership of local opioid and substance strategies.

2. The Regional Chair as the Board of Health Chair WRITE to the incoming Minister of Health articulating the above support for these actions, and particularly emphasizing the urgency to take these actions immediately.

3. The correspondence BE SHARED with the Premier, the Attorney-General of Ontario, the Associate Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, the Chief Medical Officer of Health, Niagara Members of Provincial Parliament, Niagara Members of Parliament, the Association of Local Public Health Agencies, and all Boards of Health.

I hope that you will attend this evening’s rally if you are able to do so.

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