The time to fight the drug epidemic is now
The city’s associate medical health officer, Dr. Jessica Hopkins, recently appeared before city council with a modest request — an extra $69,000 in the public health department’s battle against the deadly opioid crisis.
Specifically, the department wants the money to distribute more anti-overdose kits containing naloxone, a life-saving medicine that reverses the effects of overdose from drugs like heroin and fentanyl.
The request seems more than reasonable. It makes sense. Lives are at immediate risk with the drug epidemic that is sweeping the country.
Experts at all levels of government are agreed the country is in the midst of a crisis. Close to 700 people died of opioid-related causes in Ontario in 2015, and the death toll is on the rise.
Currently, public health officials hand out naloxone kits through the needle exchange van six days a week. On Sundays, however, overdose victims are out of luck. The department asked for the funds to expand the program to seven days a week, something that could save lives immediately.
“Getting these kits out there saves lives,” Mayor Fred Eisenberger said during the council meeting at which it was decided to delay funding.
Everyone on council seems to agree the $69,000 in extra funding would be well spent. Nonetheless, council decided to delay the decision until it finds out whether it can expect funding from the provincial and federal governments.
We understand that the city is in a tough financial situation, trying to keep tax increases down while costs inevitably rise. We understand cuts must be made.
But $69,000 isn’t a lot of money, especially if it saves just one life. It’s substantially less than a city councillor’s annual salary. It’s the sort of cash council can probably draw on from any number of sources available to it.
Yes, it seems that federal funding will eventually come. We don’t know when, though, or how much, or if any of it will come to the city.
Councillors have said they will likely revisit the funding request, perhaps before the end of budget deliberations, perhaps in late March.
But you have to wonder: If lives are at stake, why the delay? Get it done now.