$2.5M not enough to fund city's opioid fight, frontline workers say

The $2.5 million in funding the province has promised the City of Ottawa to deal with its opioid crisis is not enough, according to some community health officials on the front lines of the fight against the potentially lethal drugs.

Ontario, and other provinces, are about 10 years behind on properly addressing the issue, according to Rob Boyd, executive director of the Oasis Program at the Sandy Hill Community Health Centre.

"We've got a system that's been chronically underfunded for decades, and we are not prepared for what has come upon us," said Boyd.

On Monday Mayor Jim Watson asked the Ontario premier for $2.5 million to support a local plan to deal with opioid addiction and overdoses.

Watson said $2.5 million is an estimate from Ottawa Public Health.

In a statement the agency said it's still working out parts of its plan, but it wants to use the money for enhanced education in schools, for better access to potentially life-saving naloxone kits, and to create more detox spaces.

Recent overdoses — including the death of a 14-year-old Kanata girl — have put the spotlight on teenagers and opioid abuse.

Boyd said he thinks the funding announcement hasn't fully addressed how to support those teens' families.

"What I would like to have seen in the announcement is something more around support for families. So families, particularly of the youth, are the ones who are really the first responders in terms of providing some support to their kids," said Boyd.

"Families need information. They need to get some good, sound advice about what to do."

Boyd said he would also like to see funding directed at community-based treatment programs, which he said are a better fit for some people than live-in rehabilitation programs.

Other community health officials agree.

"I think it is really important to focus on community-based treatment options. And it is important that the money not be directed in just one area," said Naini Cloutier, executive director of the Somerset West Community Health Centre.

Like Boyd, she said $2.5 million will not be enough to properly address the opioid crisis.

Naini said she's hoping to see the money directed at "an array of services to address the issue," including better education in schools for youth and better resources for their parents.

By Hillary Johnstone
Source: CBC News