Opinions were clashing as the community and protective services committee discussed the opioid crisis, and what solutions were being offered.
Dr. Gayane Hovhannisyan, associate medical officer of health, who stood in for Middlesex-London Health Unit boss Christopher Mackie, gave a presentation on the urgency of the matter, and what the city should do to solve it.
A short-term plan, which includes expanding the Naloxone Program, creating an opioid preparedness and response plan, and supervised injection services. And a long-term plan that consists of prevention, harm detection, enforcement, treatment, and addressing the underlying source leading to the use of opioids.
“People are dying in London because of this situation. I think we need to move forward from this”, said Councillor Maureen Cassidy, who was in favour from the beginning, saying we need to take action.
Other councillors weren’t so eager to give this plan the green light, being unclear of where exactly the funds were going, and concerned about duplication.
Councillor Phil Squire told Hovhannisyan he needed to know this plan was going to be effective, and his motion to defer the topic until staff could report back with more information was narrowly rejected.
“Whether I’m crazy, or whether my thoughts are in the right direction, because I accept there’s an opioid crisis, but I believe there’re crises in other areas as well.”
Squire spoke in regards to other drug problems London is facing, including crack and meth, asking why single this crisis out instead of working towards solving them all.
Hovhannisyan recognizes there are issues with other drugs, but says the opioid crisis is in the spotlight since deaths caused by it are more preventable and there are less treatment options.
25 people died from an opioid overdose in London in 2015 alone.
“The situation that we are in is a complex problem and requires a complex and multipronged solution. I think there are opportunities for short term work that needs to be done, and this is where I think the opioid working group fits”, said Dr. Hovhannisyan, trying to clear up any confusion on whether her program would be duplicating other action plans already in place.
She also mentioned a lot of problem comes from the stigma associated with addiction.
Councillor Bill Armstrong says to end the stigma, it’s important to remind anyone struggling with addiction that they can always go to a doctor or loved one to talk, without being judged.
There is still time for the details to come forward for the city politicians who want things clarified when the pitch for the new opioid crisis working group comes to council at month’s end.