Government Responses to the Opioid Crisis
By Carragh Erhardt, Justice Ministries Program Assistant.
On June 13, the co-chairs of the federal, provincial, and territorial Special Advisory Committee on the Epidemic of Opioid Overdoses released a statement in response to new data about the impact of the opioid crisis, which reported that 11,577 people died of an apparent opioid-related overdose in Canada between January 2016 and December 2018.1
Following a recommendation from General Assembly in 2018, the Moderator wrote to the federal, provincial and territorial Ministers of Health affirming decisions to approve safe consumption/injection sites as a life-saving measure in the opioid crisis and inquiring about their plans to improve access to and funding for addiction treatment services.
Responses have been received from the Minister of Health from Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, the Northwest Territories and the Yukon. All responses indicated concern regarding the opioid crisis and included references to steps they were taking to develop and implement strategies to address the crisis. Many wrote about working on channels for people to access recovery programs. A few mentioned programs for making naloxone kits available.
As the Special Advisory Committee emphasized, “The epidemic of opioid overdoses continues to be the most challenging public health crisis in recent decades, and the devastating impacts of the crisis continue to be felt in many parts of the country, from Canada’s largest cities to rural and remote communities.” While the crisis is still a major problem, the Special Advisory Committee wrote that they have witnessed a combination of harm reduction measures—including supervised consumption sites, naloxone, and evidence-based treatments—saving lives.2
In order to put an end to the opioid crisis, we need to build on these measures and continue seeking ways to address the root causes including stigma, mental health, and social and economic factors.
The Government of Canada has compiled an interactive map of prevention and harm reduction, treatment and enforcement programs that are addressing the opioid crisis. The map may be a helpful tool for congregations to learn about programs and services near them and to identify gaps where advocacy is needed in order to put more efforts in place to address the crisis.