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Politics Federal government adds millions for ‘essential’ harm reduction in opioid crisis

Minister of Health Ginette Petitpas Taylor responds to a question during Question Period in the House of Commons April 11, 2019 in Ottawa.

Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press

The federal government is putting more money into fighting the opioid crisis and addressing what Canada’s health minister says is the “alarming growth of methamphetamine use.”

Health Minister Ginette Petipas Taylor announced to a group at a recreational centre in Surrey, B.C., that the government will invest $76.2 million to bring more life-saving measures to underserved communities to mitigate the impact on the illegal drug supply and to identify emergency drug threats.

Petipas Taylor says people often frame the opioid crisis as being a big-city problem but many of Canada’s mid-sized cities are some of the hardest hit.

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The minister says some cities suffer from provincial governments turning their backs on harm reduction, resulting in uneven access to services across Canada.

Petipas Taylor and her staff have recently been trained to use the overdose-reversing mediation naloxone and she says it’s a training session she would recommend to all Canadians.

Part of the funding is provided for evaluation and increased access to pharmaceutical-grade medications as safer alternatives to the contaminated illegal drug supply.

“Harm reduction means treating substance use not as a moral failure but rather as a medical one,” she said Wednesday. “While some might see harm reduction as controversial, I see it as truly essential.”

The money will also be used to build knowledge of effective interventions and to break down barriers that prevent people who use drugs from seeking help.

Petipas Taylor says $22.3 million from the recent federal budget will be used to get naloxone kits and overdose training sessions to underserved communities so more Canadians can save lives.

“In my mind there is no reason, and I stress absolutely no reason, why naloxone can’t be easily available all across Canada and training sessions can’t be accessible to everyone.”

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