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Letter to Minister Elliott, Minister Tibollo and Dr. Williams regarding Hon. Patty Hadju's call to action on the opioid crisis
Dear Hon. Minister Elliott, Hon. Minister Tibollo and Dr. Williams,
We write in response to the letter sent to you by the federal Minister of health, the Hon Patty Hajdu dated August 24, 2020, to encourage action at all levels to provide people who use drugs with a full spectrum of care from practitioners. We are supportive of this call to action and we urge you to address the concerns outlined in the Minister’s letter. We urge you to act now to provide essential supports to communities that face surmountable barriers in accessing health care.
The Alliance for Healthier Communities is a network of over 100 community-governed comprehensive primary health organizations in Ontario. In 2019, recognizing the severity of the overdose crisis, Alliance members signed a sector wide commitment in support of the decriminalization of drug use and possession, as well as expanded access to safer supply. Of Ontario’s 16 provincially funded consumption treatments services (CTS) sites, 11 are located in Alliance member organizations. Our sector has been monitoring the impact of the crisis closely. Additionally, four Alliance members currently house or are affiliated with safer supply programs operating in the province.
On August 31st Ontario commemorated International Overdose Awareness day. For many across the province, this was a somber and difficult day. As Minister Hajdu notes, Ontario experienced a 25 percent increase in overdose deaths from March to May 2020, compared with the same period last year. The Office of the Chief Coroner also notes that an estimated 55 people are dying per week of overdoses. The crisis is severe, people who use drugs need appropriate and effective care from trusted healthcare providers.
In April, the Alliance along with over 100 organizations called on the province to urgently act to provide safer supply. As community led health organizations responding to the ongoing crisis, we know that we cannot address the opioid crisis without adopting ambitious and forward looking strategies. The crisis is severe, our province urgently needs expanded access to clinical care models of safer supply. These low-barrier models reach people who are alienated from other models of health care due to structural barriers. Especially as Ontario responds to the ongoing threat of the COVID-19 pandemic, Ontario needs interventions that will reduce barriers to care.
As Minister Hajdu notes, the opioid crisis is a health and social issue. People who use drugs need to be treated with compassion and provided with the support they need. People in Ontario are dying preventable deaths. We urge you to respond to Minister Hajdu’s calls to action by:
- Immediately declaring the opioid crisis an emergency
- Immediately re-establishing the Ontario Opioid Emergency Task-Force to lead Ontario’s opioid response
- Prioritizing development of an Ontario strategy, in collaboration with practitioner colleges to advance access to safer supply as a response to Ontario’s severe opioid crisis.
We urgently need interventions now; the crisis is severe and we cannot wait.
Adrianna Tetley, CEO
Alliance for Healthier Communities