Toronto health officials talk opioid decriminalization

News Aug 04, 2017 by David Nickle Bloor West Villager

Toronto's top public health officials said Friday that it's time to talk about legalizing heroin and other opioids, as the city contends with a growing opioid epidemic.

“I would support a motion going to Council, asking that we consider it and begin the city dialogue to contribute to a national dialogue, on the decriminalization of heroin and other drugs,” said Toronto Board of Health Chair Joe Mihevc Aug. 4.

He and Toronto Medical Officer of Health Dr. Eileen de Villa both supported beginning such a “conversation” following an off-the-record technical briefing on Toronto's response to the opioid crisis.

The briefing ran through Toronto's existing Overdose Action Plan, which is intended to introduce measures to combat an increasing number of deaths and hospitalization due to overdose of opiates ranging from heroin to prescription pain killers.

The epidemic has been a long time growing, with a 73 per cent increase in overdose deaths between 2004 and 2015. Over the past week, Dr. de Villa noted that there had been 87 accidental overdoses reported at Emergency Wards.

The city has several strategies in place for dealing with the problem – including the distribution of naloxone kits, a proven anti-opioid which cost $145 for two doses but is partially funded by the province – and through the construction of three safe injection sites across the city which are expected to be open in the fall.

De Villa said that an emergency meeting with Mayor John Tory Thursday morning “reconfirmed” much of the work being done in the short term.

But Mihevic and de Villa said that the long-term solution lay in taking more of a “public health” approach to dealing with opioid addiction rather than the current approach involving the criminal justice system.

“I'm asking for a public health approach to drug policy,” said de Villa. “Dealing with this crisis there is no magic bullet — we can't solve this problem with one fell swoop.”

Mihevc said that it was important to have a conversation “across Canada” about decriminalizing opioids, and noted that the Toronto Board of Health had called for such a conversation in general terms, when it supported a report asking for the immediate decriminalization of cannabis.

“I think that after a generation of the war on drugs, and its failure to promote good healthy public policy, and healthy communities ... it has been an abject failure,” Mihevc said. “It's time we said yes this is the direction to go but let's have this conversation and see if the international experience can benefit us here.”

In the technical briefing, De Villa noted that Portugal is having some success with its decriminalization of opioids.

“They've implemented a decriminalization approach in Portugal and it's something that should inform our deliberations not only in Toronto but throughout our country,” she said.

Toronto health officials talk opioid decriminalization

News Aug 04, 2017 by David Nickle Bloor West Villager

Toronto's top public health officials said Friday that it's time to talk about legalizing heroin and other opioids, as the city contends with a growing opioid epidemic.

“I would support a motion going to Council, asking that we consider it and begin the city dialogue to contribute to a national dialogue, on the decriminalization of heroin and other drugs,” said Toronto Board of Health Chair Joe Mihevc Aug. 4.

He and Toronto Medical Officer of Health Dr. Eileen de Villa both supported beginning such a “conversation” following an off-the-record technical briefing on Toronto's response to the opioid crisis.

The briefing ran through Toronto's existing Overdose Action Plan, which is intended to introduce measures to combat an increasing number of deaths and hospitalization due to overdose of opiates ranging from heroin to prescription pain killers.

The epidemic has been a long time growing, with a 73 per cent increase in overdose deaths between 2004 and 2015. Over the past week, Dr. de Villa noted that there had been 87 accidental overdoses reported at Emergency Wards.

The city has several strategies in place for dealing with the problem – including the distribution of naloxone kits, a proven anti-opioid which cost $145 for two doses but is partially funded by the province – and through the construction of three safe injection sites across the city which are expected to be open in the fall.

De Villa said that an emergency meeting with Mayor John Tory Thursday morning “reconfirmed” much of the work being done in the short term.

But Mihevic and de Villa said that the long-term solution lay in taking more of a “public health” approach to dealing with opioid addiction rather than the current approach involving the criminal justice system.

“I'm asking for a public health approach to drug policy,” said de Villa. “Dealing with this crisis there is no magic bullet — we can't solve this problem with one fell swoop.”

Mihevc said that it was important to have a conversation “across Canada” about decriminalizing opioids, and noted that the Toronto Board of Health had called for such a conversation in general terms, when it supported a report asking for the immediate decriminalization of cannabis.

“I think that after a generation of the war on drugs, and its failure to promote good healthy public policy, and healthy communities ... it has been an abject failure,” Mihevc said. “It's time we said yes this is the direction to go but let's have this conversation and see if the international experience can benefit us here.”

In the technical briefing, De Villa noted that Portugal is having some success with its decriminalization of opioids.

“They've implemented a decriminalization approach in Portugal and it's something that should inform our deliberations not only in Toronto but throughout our country,” she said.

Toronto health officials talk opioid decriminalization

News Aug 04, 2017 by David Nickle Bloor West Villager

Toronto's top public health officials said Friday that it's time to talk about legalizing heroin and other opioids, as the city contends with a growing opioid epidemic.

“I would support a motion going to Council, asking that we consider it and begin the city dialogue to contribute to a national dialogue, on the decriminalization of heroin and other drugs,” said Toronto Board of Health Chair Joe Mihevc Aug. 4.

He and Toronto Medical Officer of Health Dr. Eileen de Villa both supported beginning such a “conversation” following an off-the-record technical briefing on Toronto's response to the opioid crisis.

The briefing ran through Toronto's existing Overdose Action Plan, which is intended to introduce measures to combat an increasing number of deaths and hospitalization due to overdose of opiates ranging from heroin to prescription pain killers.

The epidemic has been a long time growing, with a 73 per cent increase in overdose deaths between 2004 and 2015. Over the past week, Dr. de Villa noted that there had been 87 accidental overdoses reported at Emergency Wards.

The city has several strategies in place for dealing with the problem – including the distribution of naloxone kits, a proven anti-opioid which cost $145 for two doses but is partially funded by the province – and through the construction of three safe injection sites across the city which are expected to be open in the fall.

De Villa said that an emergency meeting with Mayor John Tory Thursday morning “reconfirmed” much of the work being done in the short term.

But Mihevic and de Villa said that the long-term solution lay in taking more of a “public health” approach to dealing with opioid addiction rather than the current approach involving the criminal justice system.

“I'm asking for a public health approach to drug policy,” said de Villa. “Dealing with this crisis there is no magic bullet — we can't solve this problem with one fell swoop.”

Mihevc said that it was important to have a conversation “across Canada” about decriminalizing opioids, and noted that the Toronto Board of Health had called for such a conversation in general terms, when it supported a report asking for the immediate decriminalization of cannabis.

“I think that after a generation of the war on drugs, and its failure to promote good healthy public policy, and healthy communities ... it has been an abject failure,” Mihevc said. “It's time we said yes this is the direction to go but let's have this conversation and see if the international experience can benefit us here.”

In the technical briefing, De Villa noted that Portugal is having some success with its decriminalization of opioids.

“They've implemented a decriminalization approach in Portugal and it's something that should inform our deliberations not only in Toronto but throughout our country,” she said.