Canadian Public Health Association applauds move to increase safe supply of drugs
The Canadian Public Health Association (CPHA) applauds the federal Minister of Health’s recent letter to Provincial and Territorial Ministers of Health and regulatory colleges to encourage action to provide people who use drugs with a full spectrum of options for receiving care. These options include increasing access to safer, pharmaceutical-grade alternatives to the contaminated illegal drug supply for people at risk of overdose.
“At a time when we are seeing alarmingly high rates of illegal drug toxicity deaths, immediate action is required,” said Ian Culbert, CPHA’s executive director. “We need to help people who use drugs with all available options for accessing safer alternatives to the toxic street supply.”
In June 2020, British Columbia reported 175 illegal drug toxicity deaths – the highest number of fatalities ever recorded for a single month in that province and the same number of people who have died in British Columbia from COVID-19 over the past six months. In Ontario, there was a 25% increase in overdose deaths from March to May 2020 compared with the same period last year.
While Alberta Health Services has reported a major increase in the number of calls for opioid-related emergencies, the Alberta government shuttered the supervised consumption site in Lethbridge. That facility with as many as 800 visits a day, was a success story; staff and volunteers at the Lethbridge facility have reversed more than 2,500 overdoses since it opened two years ago.
“Overdose deaths are outstripping deaths related to COVID-19 in this country,” said Culbert. “The time for half-measures is long gone and we need to show the same compassion to those with substance use disorders as we do to those diagnosed with COVID-19.”
The drug crisis in Canada require a humane approach that includes a continuum of interventions including law enforcement, treatment and rehabilitation, needle exchange, supervised consumption facilities, and safer supply mechanisms.