Pubdate: Wed, 02 Aug 2017
Source: London Free Press (CN ON)
Copyright: 2017 The London Free Press
Author: Megan Stacey
Page: A1


Council committee backs mayor's crisis working group.

London's response to the opioid crisis might become nearly as complex
as the addictions that require it.

City politicians voted in favour of yet another group focusing on
solutions to opioid abuse Tuesday, but several admitted they were
unclear on what, exactly, they were supporting.

"I need to know this is going to be effective," Coun. Phil Squire told
the community and protective services committee. His motion to send
the plan back to staff for clarification was narrowly defeated.

There was concern forming an opioid crisis working group - pitched by
the mayor, though Matt Brown was absent Tuesday - will duplicate work
already done by more than half a dozen committees and agencies.

But city politicians did agree on one thing. The dependence on
opioids, and the resulting public health crisis, needs to be addressed
right away.

"We're in a crisis situation that deserves immediate attention," said
Coun. Maureen Cassidy. "We see all the spillover with the HIV rates
and the Hep(atitis) C rates. All of this is interrelated."

London saw 25 opioid overdose deaths in 2015, according to the health

"What's most important is every single one of these deaths is
preventable," said Gayane Hovhannisyan, associate medical officer of
health, who stood in for London Middlesex Health Unit boss Christopher

And that reaches every corner of society, Hovhannisyan

"We had a straight-A student who died just in January. We had a nurse
who just passed due to overdose recently," she said.

But Squire and Coun. Harold Usher tried to pump the brakes on the
working group, asking about duplication.

The city already has an opioid surveillance group, and another
investigating supervised injection sites, not to mention a broader
drug and alcohol strategy.

"I don't want to start something we're already doing," said Usher. "It
seems to me to be one and the same. The only difference is the name."

Squire suggested sending the matter back to staff to prepare a report
on the "big picture," including work already being done.

"I think we need a more all-encompassing approach to this," he

But there's still time for the details city politicians want clarified
when the pitch for the new opioid crisis working group comes to
council at month's end. The committee included an amendment requiring
the working group to report back to council on its role and
relationship to similar committees.

The difference between the opioid crisis and the other drug problems
in London, Hovhannisyan said, is one has reached a critical juncture.

"We may find ourselves in a situation where people are dropping dead
(from opioids), and we know those are preventable," she said. "The
responsibility to be prepared, to do something to prevent something
from happening, is more urgent."

Cassidy argued stigma around drug abuse is part of the

"If this was something like SARS or Ebola . . . we wouldn't hesitate,"
she said of the working group. "I don't think it's something we can
delay any longer."
- ---
MAP posted-by: Matt