Downtown Eastside hosts Trudeau in roundtable meeting on overdose crisis

published on March 3, 2017 by Andrea Woo in The Globe and Mail

Canada’s Prime Minister and Minister of Defence met with people on the front lines of B.C.’s overdose crisis on Friday, listening as they spoke candidly about the urgent need to scale up treatment options, the province’s record death toll and the emotional impact it’s had on first responders.

But while those who attended the meeting in the Downtown Eastside clinic said the visit by Justin Trudeau and Harjit Sajjan was appreciated and deeply meaningful, the Prime Minister offered no promises on specific requests, such as dedicated funding for, and reduced barriers to, heroin-assisted treatment.

Addiction physician Keith Ahamad said expanded heroin-assisted treatment is a more feasible way for drug users to avoid the toxic drug supply than drug legalization – which many are calling for but won’t reasonably happen any time soon.

“He understands that the drug market is increasingly more toxic, and we let him know that we need to find innovative ways to take organize crime out of the equation,” Dr. Ahamad said.

Attendees said the Prime Minister appeared caring and genuine and took notes throughout the meeting.

Speaking with media following the meeting, Mr. Trudeau said the overdose crisis “is nothing short of an absolute tragedy – especially here in B.C.”

“The impacts have been devastating: families ripped apart, communities forever altered, loved ones lost too soon,” he said.

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