Touesnard, Sutherland and Richardson: Canada’s new minister of mental health and addictions can end the overdose crisis. Here’s how

published on November 30, 2021 by Natasha Touesnard, Christy Sutherland, and Lindsey Richardson in Ottawa Citizen

It is distressing that the toxic drug poisoning deaths of more than 22,000 Canadians were not a bigger issue in the recent federal election, especially when government policy is a driving factor behind those preventable deaths. The newly created federal Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions must take steps toward securing the life, liberty and security of people who use drugs and ending the overdose crisis. The action needed from this new ministry is clear.

The overdose crisis has been fuelled by increased toxicity in the unregulated drug supply and the ongoing criminalization of people who use drugs. Coroners’ data from across the country tells us things have only gotten worse during the pandemic. British Columbia is on pace to record the highest-ever number of fatalities with similarly alarming trends across the prairies, Ontario and Atlantic Canada. Isolation, challenges to mental health, decreased service access and an unpredictably dangerous drug supply are all at play.

The number of deaths could — and should — be close to zero. These deaths are the end result of policy failures…

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