Opioid crisis: Mayors launch task force, engage federal ministers (03/02/2017)
The Federation of Canadian Municipalities' Big City Mayors' Caucus launched a task force today to tackle an epidemic of fentanyl overdose deaths, announcing plans to meet with the federal ministers responsible for health and public safety.
The Mayors' Task Force on the Opioid Crisis has two main objectives. First, to share frontline experiences and best practices among cities addressing the crisis. Second, to work with all orders of government to better coordinate a full national response. The task force convenes mayors of 12 cities: Vancouver, Surrey, Edmonton, Calgary, Saskatoon, Winnipeg, Hamilton, London, Kitchener, Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal.
"Cities are dealing with the fentanyl opioid crisis on the front lines, but the tragedy is escalating and we're at a breaking point," said Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson, chair of the task force. "We urgently need a nationwide emergency response as opioid addiction devastates families and communities and overdose deaths reach an even more horrific toll. In Vancouver, our front-line workers are tireless in their heroic efforts to save lives, but the intensity of overdose response is overwhelming."
As a first step, Health Minister Jane Philpott and Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Minister Ralph Goodale have agreed to meet with the Task Force in the near future. This invitation will also be extended to provinces and territories. The federal government has responded with the launch of its Opioid Action Plan and has committed to a comprehensive and collaborative response to this crisis, Cities are ready to contribute their frontline perspectives and facilitate effective communication among orders of government.
"We need strong leadership from federal and provincial governments to coordinate with cities and urgently invest in the solutions to stop the epidemic, including addictions treatment, supportive housing, prevention and drug policy reform," said Robertson.
Fentanyl-related overdose deaths are spiralling in Canadian cities, with Vancouver on the leading edge. There were 914 overdose deaths in BC in 2016, with 142 in December alone. In Calgary, firefighters have been trained to administer the overdose-revival drug naloxone and have had to do so roughly once a day for the last month. First responders are already burning out as the crisis escalates, compounding the need for urgent action.
Michael FitzPatrick, Media Relations: firstname.lastname@example.org or 613-907-6346