OTTAWA, ON, June 23, 2022 /CNW/ - Today's national data release on opioid-related deaths and harms is a stark reminder that the overdose crisis, and the increasingly toxic drug supply, continue to devastate families and communities across Canada. Our hearts go out to all who have been most impacted by this crisis. The latest modelling projections of the number of opioid-related deaths are also an urgent warning of how this crisis may continue to worsen in the months ahead, and reinforce the importance of taking bold actions and making significant policy change to reverse these heartbreaking trends.
We must address substance use as a public health issue instead of a criminal justice issue to protect the health, safety, and quality of life of all Canadians.
Our government is continuing to work with partners, including provinces and territories, people with lived and living experience of substance use, service providers, and communities at greater risks of substance use harms, to take a range of innovative actions to respond to this crisis. These efforts are making a tangible difference to improve access to treatment services; increase access to harm reduction services; strengthen enforcement to help reduce the toxic illegal drug supply; increase access to a safer supply; increase awareness and prevention; and, build further data on substance use through investments in research and surveillance.
Last month, we announced the granting of the Province of British Columbia's subsection 56(1) exemption request to allow for personal possession of small amounts of some illicit drugs. Starting January 31, 2023, adults 18 and over in BC will not be subject to criminal charges for the possession of up to 2.5 grams of certain illegal drugs for personal use. As the first exemption of its kind in Canada, its implementation will be rigorously monitored to measure progress, mitigate any unintended consequences, and inform other jurisdictions interested in the removal of criminal penalties for personal possession. This is just one additional tool our government is using to reduce stigma, reduce substance use harms and respond to the heartbreaking overdose crisis.
Since the onset of the crisis, we have responded quickly to implement a wide range of measures to help save lives and meet the health needs of people who use drugs. Our government is currently supporting 17 safer supply projects in British Columbia, Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, and one national community of practice, for a total investment of $64 million. These projects are supporting people at risk of overdose with prescribed medications instead of the toxic illegal drug supply and connecting them with additional health and social services.
We are continually encouraging provincial and territorial jurisdictions to take further steps to scale up medication-assisted treatments, expand harm reduction services, and improve their treatment and recovery systems. With further collaboration, we can save more lives and reduce future substance use harms.
Since 2017, our government has committed more than $800 million to address the overdose crisis and responded quickly to implement a wide range of measures to help save lives and meet the diverse needs of people who use drugs to help them live their healthiest lives. Through Budget 2022, we are also investing an additional $100 million over three years, starting in 2022-23, to Health Canada for the Substance Use and Addictions Program to support harm reduction, treatment, and prevention at the community level.
We will continue to work with our partners to do everything we possibly can to save lives and end this national public health crisis. Because the numbers released today are not just numbers – they are beloved mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, friends and community members. And although we have taken steps in the right direction, we can and must do more.
The Honourable Carolyn Bennett, P.C., M.P.
SOURCE Public Health Agency of Canada
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