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Mobile health unit to be investigated

Opioid crisis has regional council considering another means of aid as overdose calls increase by 153 per cent in 2017

Dave Flaherty/The Oshawa Express

The region could potentially establish a mobile health unit to address the current opioid crisis faced by local communities.

Regional council endorsed a plan at its latest meeting to have the health and social services departments investigate “the costs of operating the proposed unit, which would potentially be staffed with outreach, addiction, counselling, medical and health professionals operating in partnership with local health and social service agencies”, with a report to be brought back for 2018 budget deliberations.

This comes on the heels of a regionally hosted forum that focused on the increasingly high-profile and deadly crisis of opioid use.

Councillor Dan Carter, who brought forth the motion, says it is evident the time to act is now to address the crisis.

“The statistics that all of us have been presented say this is the time to be considerate, creative and committed,” Carter told his colleagues.

As reported earlier in The Oshawa Express, the number of calls for fatal overdoses in Durham Region have increased by 153 per cent in 2017, with Durham EMS reporting they’ve responded to 206 opioid-related overdoses so far this year.

Councillor Amy McQuaid-England says while she appreciates the principle of Carter’s motion she disagrees with the timing.

“I really feel with something of this nature it needs to be a grassroots effort,” McQuaid-England said.

A number of community organizations, including the AIDS Committee of Durham and John Howard Society, have been working together on a plan, and according to McQuaid-England, this decision by council will have a negative effect on those efforts.

Councillor McQuaid-England proposed delaying the motion until the next committee of the whole meeting so those organizations could appear before council, but failed to drum up support.

“We might have had the program up and running earlier. We are probably looking to April, May or June to have an agreement signed and this program up and running, that’s too long,” McQuaid-England said. “I’m hoping this comes back relatively quickly. It doesn’t need to be complicated; we just need to clear the way and cut the red tape.”

Carter says it wasn’t his intention to hinder the efforts of community organizations, and would accept “all the help I can take.”