Dr. Christopher Mackie, the medical officer of health and chief executive of the Middlesex-London Health Unit, talked about the opioid crisis in London at King’s University college last week. Many students and staff attended King’s Hour, as Dr. Mackie discussed London’s big city drug problem in a medium sized community. Mackie says, we don’t have an overdose crisis, we have a multiple overlapping drug-related crises.
He began his presentation by asking the audience what they would do if they did not know their father and lost contact with their mother after children’s aid called for the third time.
“Who would your role models be? How would you build a network to build a meaningful life? I try to think really hard about how my privilege works. How does our privilege shape how we see the world and how does it become a barrier? How can we break through the barrier so we can understand what it’s like to live a life that has led you, for example, to addictions?”
Mackie’s words sparked a conversation about changing the way people view people who are living with addiction.
“Caring about people and having respect, treating them with even a bit of love, these are free, there’s no cost there. It’s just something we have to think a little bit differently about, and it might be enough to make a connection to help somebody move on with their lives.”
He adds that “if we can change how we think about those people, we can do more than a hundred and thirty thousand dollars in funding.”
Dr. Mackie addressed those who are resisting the idea of safe injection sites or the possibility of a permanent site.
“I don’t know if there is a way of changing someone’s heart set opinions. Minds will change when it affects them directly. When they have a family member or a friend who is affected.”
The Middlesex-London Health Unit recently received $250,000 from the province as part of a $15-million effort across Canada in response to the opioid crisis. After the Public Health Agency of Canada reported a national opioid death rate of 8.8 per 100,000 population, the federal government introduced updated prescription guidelines in May 2017 hoping to curb the crisis.
Dr. Mackie announced on Twitter earlier this month that the Middlesex-London Health Unit submitted the first application in Ontario for a temporary overdose prevention site.
“We often hear words like crystal meth or fentanyl, and we conjure up images of monsters who are nothing but their addiction. The people who are using drugs underneath are people like you and me who have had more difficult lives.”
-Dr. Chris Mackie