Pubdate: Sat, 18 Feb 2017
Source: Hamilton Spectator (CN ON)
Copyright: 2017 The Hamilton Spectator
Author: Matthew Van Dongen
Page: A4


Life-saving overdose antidote kits not available on Sundays, public
health says

The city will put off a request to distribute more life-saving
anti-overdose kits until it finds out whether the provincial or
federal governments will cover the cost.

The city's public health department requested extra cash in 2017 to
expand distribution of naloxone, a life-saving medicine that reverses
the effects of overdose on opioid drugs like heroin and fentanyl.

The city already hands out kits on request and via the needle exchange
van, which travels around Hamilton during the week and on Saturdays
handing out clean needles.

But no service is offered on Sundays and the van is so busy during the
week it can't always meet demand, said associate medical officer of
health Dr. Jessica Hopkins, in asking Friday for an extra $69,000 to
expand the harm reduction program hours.

"This is not a problem that goes away on Sundays."

Mayor Fred Eisenberger, who recently hosted a summit looking at how to
tackle the rising tide of opioid overdoses, urged councillors to
approve the "modest" budget bump.

"Getting these kits out there saves lives," Eisenberger said.

The $69,000 request was significantly less than an earlier $260,000
program expansion estimate made last fall, said Hopkins, because the
province has since addressed some identified needs - for example,
giving kits to inmates as they're released from jail.

But some councillors, already concerned about a proposed five per cent
budget boost for public health, asked whether other levels of
government should be funding the program instead.

Eisenberger said he and other Canadian mayors have been talking to the
federal government about a national strategy to tackle the overdose
death crisis and added he is confident Prime Minister Justin Trudeau
is "keen on participating."

The budget committee supported a motion from Coun. Sam Merulla to put
off a vote on the extra harm reduction funding until the city hears
back on a request for federal help.

Merulla, who said he supports expanding the program, later said he
expects the city to have a better sense of whether federal cash is
coming before the end of this year's budget deliberations, likely in
late March.

"We're not going to wait on this forever."

Councillors also put off the debate on whether to adopt a "living
wage" minimum pay scale for part-time and contract city workers until
Feb. 24. The city already pays full-time employees the locally
calculated living wage of at least $15.85. It would cost the city
close to $1 million extra a year to bump up the pay of part-time and
contract workers such as students, crossing guards and library pages.
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MAP posted-by: Matt