Ottawa

Ottawa among cities calling on PM for help with deadly opioid crisis

Big city mayors, including Ottawa's Jim Watson, are calling on the Prime Minister for a coordinated national response to the deadly fentanyl crisis.

'Our first responders obviously are being put through a pretty traumatic experience,' says Ottawa mayor

Ottawa mayor Jim Watson wants to stop the fentanyl crisis from hitting the capital like it has in Vancouver. (CBC News)

Big city mayors, including Ottawa's Jim Watson, are calling on the Prime Minister for a coordinated national response to the deadly fentanyl crisis sweeping across the country.

Big city mayors sat down with Justin Trudeau on Friday and among other issues, told him that opioid abuse is one of the most significant problems municipalities are facing.

"Our first responders obviously are being put through a pretty traumatic experience dealing with this crisis literally on a day-to-day basis," Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson said. 

"This is obviously a national emergency and it needs to be treated like that," said Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson. 

PM open to national response

The B.C. Coroners Service said 128 people died of an illicit drug overdose in November 2016 — an average of more than four people per day. The chief coroner said the increase in deaths is mostly due to the presence of fentanyl.

The problem is heading east — Ottawa paramedics doubled their use of naloxone in 2016 due to the rise in fentanyl-related overdoses in the capital region.

First responders are even being warned to wear masks on the job over carfentanil, a new drug so potent that it poses risks to those exposed to it through their skin or inhalation.

Ottawa health officials are also urging partygoers who recreationally use drugs to carry naloxone kits with them to prevent fentanyl deaths. 

"It was a very thoughtful discussion," said Watson. "I think the prime minister was open to an idea that was brought forward that we need the municipal, provincial and federal levels of government all working together in a coordinated response." 
The fentanyl crisis is moving east after claiming dozens of lives on the west coast of Canada. (Lethbridge Police Service)

'We're going to see a horrific toll'

Robertson is calling for a "massive investment" towards addictions treatment, health care and housing support for those who are vulnerable. 

"Otherwise the toll will be off the charts and the tragedy will unfold in these months and years ahead," Robertson said.

"Unless we get very clear coordination in leadership from the federal government to pull provinces and cities together and significant resources to invest in treatment and supports for addictions, we're going to see a horrific toll here."

Robertson said that harm reduction such as handing out Naloxone kits to reverse overdoses is a Band-Aid solution across Canada that won't solve the growing problem.
Mayors say they had a thoughtful conversation with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau about the growing opioid problem. (CBC News)
 

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