Prairie Post (East Edition)

Foothills MP try­ing to find some plau­si­ble so­lu­tions to na­tional opi­oid cri­sis

- By Ryan Dahlman Society · Opioid Crisis · Canada News · Social Issues · North America · United States of America · Zoom Video Communications · Rhode Island · Los Angeles · John F. Kennedy · Calgary · Alberta · British House of Commons · Ottawa · Centre · Canadian Mental Health Association · Mental Health Association · High River

In an open let­ter on his web­site, Foothills MP John Bar­low is putting out a call to get Cana­di­ans’ per­spec­tives and ideas about the best way to over­come the na­tional opi­oid cri­sis.

Bar­low is co-chair­ing the fed­eral Con­ser­va­tive Opi­oid Cri­sis Work­ing Group. He wants to come up with a plau­si­ble plan in deal­ing with a cri­sis which was rear­ing its ugly head prior to the pan­demic and has since been out of the spot­light.

“We wanted to come in with a tan­gi­ble pol­icy frame­work to ad­dress the opi­oid cri­sis with a fo­cus on re­cov­ery. As I have gone through this the last few years and re­ally more fo­cused the last few months, is there’s no con­sis­tent pro­gram for Cana­di­ans to ac­cess who are strug­gling with ad­dic­tions,” ex­plained Bar­low in a phone in­ter­view. “The way I am look­ing at this is two dif­fer­ent veins if you will. One is the Con­ser­va­tives side, we are all about safe com­mu­ni­ties and crime and pun­ish­ment. That has to be part of it. We have to crack down on the gangs, the traf­fick­ers, the deal­ers, those who are il­le­gally smug­gling in fen­tanyl and car­fen­tanyl into the coun­try.

“But there needs to be a com­pas­sion­ate side of this. for what­ever rea­son, men­tal heath is­sues, de­pres­sion, anx­i­ety, cer­tainly Covid, we have seen sta­tis­tics the im­pact men­tal health im­pact this has had on Cana­di­ans is pro­found. More and more peo­ple are turn­ing to sub­stance abuse as a way to cope so there has to be an­other av­enue which I think is the most im­por­tant which is the re­cov­ery. Cana­di­ans need to ac­cess to suc­cess­ful treat­ment op­tions, so that’s re­ally what we are look­ing at is those two av­enues and try­ing to come up with some­thing.”

Bar­low ex­plained the tricky part here is that health care is within the ju­ris­dic­tion of the prov­inces so we have to make sure we are not strip­ping on the prov­inces’ toes but of­fer some re­sources what­ever they may be and a leg­isla­tive tools to pro­vide them the tools be­tween the pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ments and the fed­eral gov­ern­ments to pro­vide th­ese re­sources for a re­sis­tant plan for re­cov­ery.

The idea for the Work­ing Group started last sum­mer when Bar­low took to his team and party lead­er­ship crew and thought it was some­thing they should be fo­cus­ing on. Bar­low said when Con­ser­va­tive leader Erin O’Toole put him on the stand­ing com­mit­tee of health, “it was just a per­fect fit, the tim­ing seems to work.”

“There’s so many is­sues with health, this was just some­thing I kinda stood up and said if no one was in­ter­ested in do­ing this I would re­ally be in­ter­ested in tak­ing this on. This is some­thing that has re­ally fallen through the cracks and I know it is some­thing elected of­fi­cials have talked about but I haven’t re­ally seen any­one do some real tan­gi­ble so­lu­tions,” said Bar­low. “Just know­ing peo­ple who have strug­gled with ad­dic­tions, strug­gled to find ac­cess to re­cov­ery. I just felt it was some­thing that was some­thing that we had to have asa pri­or­ity. Thank­fully and I am proud of the fact that my party feels this is the case as well.

“It is some­thing I have been pas­sion­ate about for a few years, it is cer­tainly some­thing that has im­pacted my rid­ing quite pro­foundly as it has many other parts of the coun­try. I have had some friends im­pacted by the opi­oid is­sue so it just hit re­ally close to home. I have friends and fam­ily who have been im­pacted …It is per­sonal in­ter­est for me and I ap­proached the leader about tak­ing this on and form­ing this group and thank­fully they saw this as a pri­or­ity and al­lowed me to do this.”

Bar­low said put out an open call for any­one MP-wise who wanted to par­tic­i­pate. He said Todd Do­herty (MP, Cari­boo— Prince George) who has a lot of ex­pe­ri­ence with this, as a com­mu­nity vol­un­teer wanted to take part and is the Group’s co-chair. They put out the word to their col­leagues and asked for any­one in­ter­ested to lend us their ex­pe­ri­ence or ex­per­tise. They have more than 20 MP who are part of this, “lit­er­ally from coast to coast” be­cause ev­ery­body’s per­spec­tive which is im­por­tant, ev­ery­one’s per­spec­tive is a lit­tle bit dif­fer­ent, but we want to hear what is best prac­tices. “We have reached out to not only Cana­dian par­lia­men­tar­i­ans but we have reached out to ex­perts across North Amer­ica,” Noted Bar­low. “We have had Zoom calls with peo­ple from Rhode Is­land to Los Angeles, maybe there are pro­grams that are work­ing. Maybe we don’t have to start from scratch, maybe there are pro­grams we can em­u­late here in Canada.”

He is also He is invit­ing his con­stituents who have in­sight, ex­pe­ri­ences or ideas.

Bar­low has spo­ken to Shel­don Kennedy about all of this as well to or­ga­niz­ers of the Cal­gary Dream Cen­tre, South­ern Al­berta doc­tors who have done work with opi­oid pa­tients.

One pos­i­tive has come from ef­forts is that in the House of Com­mons, pass­ing a mo­tion was passed unan­i­mously in De­cem­ber to es­tab­lish the 9-8-8 sui­cide hot­line in Canada, which Bar­low de­scribes as be­ing an ini­tia­tive spear­headed by Do­herty.

On his let­ter to con­stituents it stated, “A re­cent study by the Cana­dian Men­tal Health As­so­ci­a­tion (CMHA) showed the dev­as­tat­ing im­pact the pan­demic is hav­ing on the men­tal health of Cana­di­ans and con­se­quently opi­oid abuse and over­dose deaths are in­creas­ing dra­mat­i­cally.

Ac­cord­ing to the CMHA about 40% of Cana­di­ans said their men­tal health has de­te­ri­o­rated since the be­gin­ning of the pan­demic. In ad­di­tion, 10% said they have had sui­ci­dal thoughts and 17% of re­spon­dents said they have in­creased sub­stance use a means to cope.”

“I can’t pro­fess to be an ex­pert on this, all of this on this group have had some sort of per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ence one way or an­other with it, we re­ally want to hear from any­one who has in­ter­est,” added Bar­low.”

Those who have ideas can con­tact their own MP and have the mes­sages passed along or you can con­tact Bar­low di­rectly at his Con­stituency Of­fice in High River at Tel:403-603-3665; Toll Free: 1-866-636-9437 or his Par­lia­men­tary Of­fice in Ottawa at: tele­phone: 613995-8471 or con­nect to his email at: https://john­bar­lowmp.ca/con­tact/

Fax: 613-996-9770

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