Government must stop ignoring drug poisoning crisis

Government must stop ignoring drug poisoning crisis

An evidence-based approach that includes harm reduction is urgently needed to save lives in Alberta

Despite 2021 being Alberta's deadliest year yet for fatal drug poisoning, today’s post-budget government release on their model for addiction and mental health continues to ignore the vital importance of harm reduction.

“People are dying, in record numbers, yet the government continues to ignore the impacts of the ongoing drug poisoning crisis in their response,” said Chris Gallaway, Executive Director of Friends of Medicare. “The government talks about a ‘recovery-oriented system of care,’ but there can be no wellness or recovery without harm reduction. There can be no recovery for those who need it if they are no longer alive to access treatment.”

In a press release this morning, the government claimed their “goal is that every Albertan should have the opportunity to pursue long-term recovery without barriers.” Yet this is the same government that brought in new, restrictive ID requirements for those accessing supervised consumption services.

“Against all evidence and advice, the UCP government implemented ID restrictions at Alberta’s supervised consumption sites,” said Gallaway. “These restrictions are barriers to accessing carebarriers that are likely to cost human livesand the government knows this. Yet they continue to fight the community in court to keep those barriers to access in place.”

Alberta is facing a health care crisis: we have a toxic drug supply that is killing more people every day. The government acknowledged this by striking a Safe Supply Committee – but then stacked the panel with opponents to harm reduction, making it clear they have no real intention of looking at this issue with a fair and evidence-based approach.

“The government’s Safe Supply Committee was rigged from the get-go,” said Gallaway. “It’s no surprise that the opposition, experts and community groups are boycotting what is clearly a stacked process, from a government that is not willing to consider the best evidence to keep Albertans safe.”

“The government’s first goal should be to reduce harm and to keep Albertans alive. It’s long past time for them to implement an evidence-based approach to drugs, with a strategy that includes harm reduction as a crucial pillar,” concluded Gallaway. “It’s impossible to say how many people have needlessly lost their lives as a result of archaic and ideological drug policy in Alberta, but the provincial government has a responsibility now to ensure that no one else has to die because of a lack of access to the care and supports they need.”

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