“The drug poisoning crisis in Ontario is real and it is raging,” Schreiner said at a news conference in North Bay. “It’s a public health emergency. And tragically, it’s hitting the North the hardest.”
According to the Ontario Drug Policy Research Network, fatal opioid drug poisonings rose by a staggering 79 per cent among Ontarians aged 25-44 since the onset of the pandemic — with rates in northern Ontario almost three times higher than southern regions of the province.
“We need to start treating substance use as a health issue and not a criminal issue,” Schreiner said. “People suffering from addictions challenges should be provided access to care, not locked up and ostracized. Let’s end the stigma.”
Schreiner’s addictions and drug poisoning prevention strategy will:
- Decriminalize drug use and shift funding from the justice system to health care
- Establish a 3 digit, 24/7 province-wide mental health crisis response line, and create mental health-focused crisis response teams to respond to drug poisonings
- Increase the number of provincially-funded treatment beds
- Increase the number of consumption and treatment sites and expand the availability of harm reduction programs, including safe supply
- Take a Housing First approach and build 60,000 permanent supportive housing spaces
Schreiner will put his plan into action next week when he tables a legislative motion at Queen’s Park calling for a province-wide strategy to address the addictions and drug poisoning crisis.