Chatham-Kent councillors will meet to discuss new drug strategy
Rate of drug-related emergency department visits have increased, according to report
Chatham-Kent councillors will meet Monday to discuss funding a new drug prevention strategy — something the municipality currently does not have.
This idea was brought forward by Chatham-Kent Ward 6 Coun. Brock McGregor back in August, where he asked council to pass a motion implementing a municipal drug strategy in collaboration with local agencies and stakeholders, like the Chatham-Kent Drug Awareness Council.
Since then, a report was created which includes data on substance use in Chatham-Kent from the last 10 years.
The report, which will be presented to council, recommends hiring a coordinator that will cost about $110,000 on an annual basis.
"The idea is really to have that information well in hand. Let council take a look at it and be able to make a decision when we get to the budget process that's based on facts and really based on understanding what we need to commit to as a municipality," said McGregor.
According to the report, drug-related emergency department (ED) visits and hospitalizations have gone up in the last decade for Chatham-Kent.
The report states that among Chatham-Kent residents, "substance use and addiction is the second leading cause of all mental health related ED visits, and the third leading cause of all mental health related hospitalizations."
The author of the report, Director of Public Health Teresa Bendo, wrote that from 2015 to 2017, "substance use and addiction was the primary reason for nearly 1,500 ED visits and 200 hospitalizations."
According to Bendo "the rate of ED visits for opioid poisoning among Chatham-Kent residents increased 225 per cent and the rate of hospitalizations increased by 45 per cent" from 2003 to 2017.
McGregor and other Chatham-Kent councillors say the increase in drug-related ED visits and hospitalizations is not unique to Chatham-Kent.
"It's an issue that every small municipality ... faces. We aren't alone in the issue," said Ward 2 Coun. Trevor Thompson.
Thompson also said no amount of money is enough to tackle the drug issue in the municipality.
"I think it's a good start," said Thompson, adding that he thinks it's necessary to hire a coordinator who can connect the appropriate services to the people who need treatment.
Ward 2 Coun. Mary Clare Latimer disagreed.
"I don't think we should be in the business of providing the actual service. I think we should demonstrate the political direction ... and we should work on leveraging the current existing resources," said Latimer.
Ward 6 Coun. Michael Bondy said he wants to be sure that council "stays on an original track" and does not "duplicate the roles of police and public health."
"I understand we have an opioid problem ... but I just hope we don't enter into creating another committee that is going to attempt to oversee what is effectively the role of police and public health," said Bondy.
Thompson said he'll be looking to see what others in the meeting have to say, adding that it's a contentious issue.
"There are individuals in the broader public that don't really believe in trying to find coping mechanisms or spending public money to try and combat this," said Thompson.
McGregor said this is an issue that won't be solved immediately.
"Really what this is about is council recognizing the impact of drug use in our community and we need to work with our community partners to get on the same page and have a focused approach as we go forward."