It’s heartbreaking to learn that the number of opioid deaths in the U.S. is expected to surpass 50,000 this year, the deadliest on record. But the best way to protect people from death is to fight the epidemic on many fronts.
Washington, D.C., stands apart as a national leader in fighting addiction and overdose. Our city is committed to continuing that efforts, but much more needs to be done across the country. Ottawa is not immune.
I don’t want to imply that local municipalities are the only ones working on the opioid crisis. Baltimore and Pittsburgh are also fighting it. And from coast to coast, organizations, police departments and elected officials are stepping up to support recovery.
Here at home, in Ontario, Ontario, two organizations — Waterloo Region Multicultural Youth Council and the CBR Civil Preparedness and Response Team — have been working together to create a community-based response, known as the Turningpoint Coalition, to support the efforts of frontline community workers — police, health-care professionals, social workers and others.
The coalition is part of a multidisciplinary approach to the drug crisis in Waterloo Region that aims to prevent, treat and support those who have experienced the disease of addiction, and to provide support services that help them recover. The group brings together professionals from a number of sectors to focus on the needs of the drug affected, which isn’t just those at the immediate crisis level, but also those who are affected by the cycle of addiction and overdose. Their expertise is critical in connecting the dots, to prevent the epidemic from spreading further.
I am proud of my province and the communities that have joined Waterloo Region’s efforts. But more must be done in Ottawa to help reduce overdose deaths and to stop the scourge of opioid overdoses from spreading.
Too many Canadians, especially in urban communities, still feel as though the opioid crisis is not of their concern or has not impacted them. We cannot continue to brush the scourge of addiction and overdose under the rug.
If we don’t get better at understanding the underlying reasons for addiction, we won’t be able to effectively intervene. If the government and broader community don’t provide more funding for addiction services, we will continue to see the crisis spread.
There is no silver bullet to end the opioid crisis. Local governments, social workers, first responders and the public all have a role to play. But the best tool is strong leadership. We need help from the federal government in helping better track the numbers of overdoses and deaths across the country, whether or not it includes Ottawa.
The federal government should provide additional funding for safe injection sites, programs to treat addictions, better access to overdose-reversing drugs, and measures to help prevent accidental use of opioids.
Ottawa has the potential to save lives. We can do more if we invest in our local communities and join forces across the country.
The mayor of Waterloo Region is dedicated to supporting the struggle against the opioid crisis. But our mayor and the Council need help. It’s up to our federal government to ensure that our local officials, who make a difference in their community and advocate for people who are affected by the opioid crisis, are also supported and have the resources they need to continue to make a difference.
Sarita Duggal is the city councillor for Lansdowne Ward in Ottawa.