By Chris Jones/The Oshawa Express
Mayor Dan Carter is calling on his colleagues, and the provincial and federal governments to work together to fight the “opioid epidemic.”
After being witness to an overdose on city hall property, Carter says he feels more needs to be done.
Speaking to the region’s health and social services committee Carter made his plea.
The first-term mayor says at the centre of the problem is the state of the region’s shelter system.
“Our shelter system needs to go through a modernization process to look at the type of shelters we have in existence today, and what kind of shelters are going to be necessary to build because of the complexities of the individuals that are utilizing them,” says Carter.
He explains shelters in the region are mostly dormitory-style, which are bunk beds in a large open area.
“Because of the complexities of the individuals that find themselves unsheltered now, many of them have complex or concurrent disorders, and dormitory shelters create an environment that is not conducive to the best outcomes,” he says.
Carter believes all eight mayors in Durham need to come together to share their own personal experiences in their communities of what he calls a “health epidemic that is hitting all our communities.”
“[It’s] the result of opiate use and mental health and addiction issues that are happening in our community, that also go to our unsheltered population,” he says. “We need to work together to be able to raise awareness with the provincial government that we need this to be addressed as a health epidemic that not only is hitting parts of Durham Region, but it is impacting communities all across Durham, Ontario, Canada, and North America.”
To Carter, without sufficient support from the provincial and federal governments, the status quo will remain.
“We’ll never get to a place where we start making inroads.”
Carter also discussed the region’s needle exchange program and clean needle kits.
“Through the John Howard Society, we give out about 615,000 clean kits, and we receive between 80 and 90 per cent of those back,” explains Carter. “This means we have anywhere from 60,000 to 120,000 discarded needles, syringes or drug paraphernalia in our communities.”
Carter says this is concerning to him, and wonders if the current program is a “recipe for success.”
Carter notes when the needle exchange program was first started 20 years ago, there were only 15,000 kits distributed.
“Yes, having the clean kits helps alleviate the spread of HIV, hepatitis C, and [other diseases], but, you can also look at it and see if we went from 15,000 clean kits to 615,000 clean kits, that says to me that we’ve got an epidemic on our hands, and that we need to address it differently,” says Carter.
Oshawa’s mayor says he can’t stand by and watch the situation.
“I am looking for every idea, every concept, and every approach to be able to address this issue, and the biggest issue that we need to deal with, is we need to share our data, our successes, our failures, our ideas, best practices,” Carter says. “And we have to work as a collective voice to advocate to the provincial and federal government that this is a health epidemic, and we need their resources, their expertise, and their support if we’re going to start making inroads.
After making his plea, Carter says he was happy with the response he’s received.
“[Staff stated] that they agreed with the statements and the points I had made,” says Carter. “They also believe that we need to do everything that we can to raise the awareness of this health epidemic, and that they could see behind my passion, and behind my commitment, and that I am not willing for this to be a one day story.”