Pubdate: Mon, 06 Feb 2017
Source: Record, The (Kitchener, CN ON)
Copyright: 2017 Metroland Media Group Ltd.
Author: Johanna Weidner
Page: B1


KITCHENER - Mayors from a dozen cities across Canada, including
Kitchener, are on a newly formed task force to tackle the epidemic of
fentanyl overdose deaths.

"I wanted to make sure we were at the table," said Kitchener Mayor
Berry Vrbanovic. He asked to be a part of the task force at an Ottawa
meeting two weeks ago of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities'
Big City Mayors' Caucus.

The task force convenes mayors of 12 cities; Vancouver, Surrey,
Edmonton, Calgary, Saskatoon, Winnipeg, Hamilton, London, Kitchener,
Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal.

"It's also bringing that two-tier perspective to the table," Vrbanovic
said of his involvement.

Fentanyl is a problem across the country, "and it's grown
exponentially over the past year," Vrbanovic said. "In this region, we
have seen a significant increase in seizures of the powdered form of

That's up more than 500 per cent in 2106 compared to the previous
year, he said.

The task force's two main objectives are sharing experiences and best
practices among cities addressing the crisis, and working with all
levels of government to better co-ordinate a national response.

Vrbanovic said the federal government is keen to work with the group
and they'll also engage provinces and territories. That's essential
with a health emergency like this one.

"It is a very significant one that requires a co-ordinated approach,"
Vrbanovic said. "We're looking for a national strategy."

During preliminary discussions, they talked about the shortfall of not
having a national overdose database to get a handle on the issue.

"We need to get a good sense of the scope of the problem across the
country," he said.

Vancouver is on the leading edge of the fentanyl crisis, with 914
overdose deaths in B.C. in 2016 and 142 in December alone.

Traditionally, emerging drugs tend to shift across the country,
Vrbanovic said.
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