Why Canada should declare a national opioid emergency too

published on November 15, 2017 by Pauline Voon in The Conversation

In the United States, President Donald Trump has formally declared the opioid overdose crisis to be a national public health emergency. The numbers he cited speak for themselves: More than 64,000 Americans died from opioid overdose last year, which translates to more than 175 per day, or almost seven every hour.

The situation in Canada is just as devastating, with opioid overdoses estimated to cause at least 16 hospitalizations and eight deaths each day.

This did not happen overnight. The number of opioid overdose deaths has risen at an alarming rate since the early 2000s. Now, more than a decade later, communities, health professionals and some politicians such as NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, are still pushing for a national health emergency to be declared here in Canada as well.

By declaring a national public welfare emergency, the federal government could both acknowledge the scale of the opioid overdose crisis and unlock funds critical to a successful response.

Such a move would not be without precedent.

From SARS and H1N1 to opioid deaths

We should have learned by now, from past health crises that have affected our entire nation.

When 44 deaths were caused by SARS in Canada in 2003, the National Advisory Committee on SARS and Public Health urged the Government of Canada to “consider incorporating in legislation a mechanism for dealing with health emergencies” — one that “would be activated in lockstep with provincial emergency acts in the event of a pan-Canadian health emergency.”

View the full article