London city hall: Council declined to approve Mayor Matt Brown’s plan to start a working group to address local opioid use

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City council isn’t prepared to establish a working group to target the opioid crisis in London — at least not yet.

After debating the proposal for an hour Tuesday, council voted to send it back to committee for more discussion, a move that suggests there’s a loose leadership grip held by Mayor Matt Brown, who proposed the idea.

Coun. Tanya Park said council should focus on funding organizations that do frontline work, rather than muddying the waters with an additional group.

“We need to get out of the way and let organizations in the city of London do their jobs, and stop letting politicians get in the way,” she said.

But Brown argued that the working group would liaise and coordinate with the other groups already in motion, acting as a sort of umbrella organization.

He also clarified that the working group would be led by the city’s medical officer of health.

Coun. Jesse Helmer, chair of the Middlesex-London Health Unit, said action — as well as organization among the many groups already focused on drugs in London — is desperately needed.

“I don’t frankly understand why the idea of creating a working group is getting so much resistance,” Helmer said. “We need to be involved in this issue, because it just keeps getting worse and worse and worse.”

Politicians were divided, not just on the working group, but whether more discussion would do any good.

“I really don’t know why we’ve debated this for an hour,” said a frustrated Coun. Virginia Ridley.

But Coun. Anna Hopkins, who suggested sending the topic back for further debate, said it was clear there was “unanswered questions and concerns.”

Politicians narrowly supported the referral to send the issue back to the strategic priorities and policy committee, which includes all members of council. Seven councillors — Bill Armstrong, Mo Salih, Phil Squire, Anna Hopkins, Tanya Park, Jared Zaifman, Josh Morgan — supported pressing pause. Deputy Mayor Paul Hubert was absent, and all else were opposed. 

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