Opioid crisis: Stop the Harm
At today's Council meeting, we tabled a notice of motion urging the Mayor to write the federal government on the City's behalf calling for the overdose crisis to be declared a national health emergency. The motion will be considered at the final Council meeting before the summer recess.
We are also urging the Mayor to call on the federal government to begin a nation-wide consultation process that prioritizes the voices of people who use drugs and others directly impacted by the opioid crisis. And for the federal government to create a comprehensive, pan-Canadian overdose action plan, which would include support services and consideration of the measures and reforms other countries have implemented to significantly reduce drug-related fatalities and stigmas. We want to thank Kitchissippi Ward resident Katherine Steinhoff and Moms Stop The Harm for raising this issue with us and urging this important action.
The opioid crisis is one of the largest and most urgent public health crises of our lifetime, claiming 21,174 in the last five years (January 2016 to December 2020) - an average of two deaths every hour. In Ottawa alone, we’ve lost 127 people to opioid-related deaths in 2020, which is a 95% increase from 2019. Every one of these deaths is preventable, and it is our duty as citizens and elected officials to do everything we can to reduce the harm caused by drug use.
Other countries have been able to significantly reduce drug-related fatalities with legal reforms; in particular, the regulation of illicit drugs to ensure safe supply for all users, and the decriminalization of drugs for personal use. The Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police is in agreement with the evidence that suggests “decriminalization for simple possession as an effective way to reduce the public health and public safety harms associated with substance use.” These are recommendations that those most impacted by the opioid crisis have been calling on governments to implement for years.
The COVID-19 pandemic has illustrated how governments can take urgent action to protect their citizens in the case of a major public health crisis. It is imperative that the federal government take urgent action now with the full support of the City, to respond to the overdose crisis that has tragically taken the lives of so many and scarred families across the country and in our city.