Motion to declare opioid overdose crisis voted down at Queen's Park

A motion to declare an opioid overdose crisis in northern Ontario has been voted down at Queen's Park.

Sudbury NDP MPP Jamie West introduced the motion yesterday. It called for the Progressive Conservatives to declare the opioid crisis a public health emergency. It also called for more funding for harm-reduction programs.

During the debate, Nickel Belt NDP MPP France Gélinas said the opioid crisis is affecting most people in the region. She shared the story of an unnamed teen she called 'Ricky.'

"He went to school in Lively in my riding and he was well liked," she said. "He had a very special, loving relationship with his grandmother who he visited everyday."

She says when Ricky was in his late-teens, he started experimenting with drugs. She says his family tried to get him help, but the waiting lists were too long.

"Then his dad got the call that Ricky was intensive care at the hospital," she said.

"He have overdosed. After a short time, they made the tough decision to say goodbye. Ricky was 21 years old. He's dead."

Gélinas says the opioid crisis has impacted almost everyone in northern Ontario.

"And yet, we are told that we can have a supervised consumption site because we don't have the services to service them afterwards," she said.

"What are we talking about? We have no services in the north. We have our waiting lists that let people down."

CBC

Associate Mental Health and Addictions Minister Michael Tibollo says the province is putting $174 million dollars into support for people living with opioid addiction in the province, including $33 million for opioid and addiction treatment in the north.

"All of these investments are part of our commitment to invest $3.8 million over 10 years to finally develop and implement a comprehensive and connected mental health and addictions treatment strategy centred around patients, their families and caregivers," he said.

In the end, 33 MPPs voted in favour of the motion, while 55 voted against.

West says the Ford government has betrayed families in northern Ontario.

"We gave the Ford government a chance to take real action to prevent more opioid addiction and overdoses and to save lives," West said.

"I am disappointed that Doug Ford and the Conservatives chose to continue to ignore the devastating impact this crisis is having on northern families and communities."