On top of city, region and provincial efforts, London Mayor Matt Brown makes new bid to tackle local drug crisis, issues

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Another drug crisis, another drug strategy.

In the midst of an ongoing London drug strategy, a regional drug strategy and a provincial drug strategy — none of them completed yet — the city’s mayor wants his own drug strategy.

But the new effort will be nimble with a concrete focus, battling opioid overdoses and other problems in large part through the establishment of a supervised injection site, city health leaders promise.

“The mayor is trying to show leadership by putting his name on it,” said Scott Courtice, executive director of the London Intercommunity Health Centre (LIHC).

But Courtice knows the concern that will bring.

“It brings it into the political world, which can sometimes muddle things. We’ve got a responsibility to not let that happen.”

Mayor Matt Brown is asking the community and protective services committee Tuesday to support an Opioid Crisis Working Group.

“The human tragedy arising from opioid addiction and the explosion of fatal overdoses, as well as the associated pressures placed on London’s health, emergency and social service agencies, makes this issue impossible to ignore,” Brown says in a letter to committee.

“It is imperative that we take immediate steps to try and find solutions to contain and mitigate the crisis in our community. That is why I am proposing the creation of an Opioid Crisis Working Group.”

Brown was on vacation and could not be reached for comment Monday, spokesperson Ashton Patis said.

The working group would include the mayor and other leaders, explore the current opioid situation, consult the community, and make recommendations.

“There is no bureaucracy being created here,” said Christopher Mackie, Middlesex-London’s medical officer of health. “We’re not asking for money for this.”

The Middlesex-London Health Unit reached out to some community leaders, including the mayor, to figure out how to handle the growing opioid crisis, which is claiming about 30 lives a year through overdoses alone and shows signs of worsening, Mackie said.

The health unit wants to develop a supervised injection site, and community consultation is an essential step before getting approval from higher levels of government, he said.

It makes sense to have the mayor’s office get involved for that reason alone, Mackie said.

“This was really formed to make sure our community consultation is robust. This is a major objective and we want to make sure we have the community input.”

The working group seems to parallel existing efforts to tackle London and area’s drug abuse problems.

There are so many efforts, city staff told politicians in January there was no point in spending $200,000 to create a London mental health and addiction strategy.

“In light of the many concurrent activities and the desire to avoid duplication of existing planning and/or development efforts, both within the community and provincially, none of the council-approved funding has been expended,” staff told politicians.

Those existing efforts include the London Drug and Alcohol Strategy, more than three years in the making and involving 80 agencies and departments across Middlesex-London. It’s supposed to develop a plan by December.

Meanwhile, the South West Local Health Integration Network is working to co-ordinate addictions services across a wider region, and the province is working on an addiction strategy, the staff report in January noted.

But those groups are working on long-term solutions to drug abuse and addiction, Mackie said.

A study released in February concluded that people who inject drugs in London would support a supervised injection site.

That study also noted London has a higher rate of opioid injection than national averages and high rates of crystal meth and cocaine injection.

People who inject drugs in London have higher than national rates of hepatitis C and the increase in HIV infections has been termed an epidemic by the health unit.



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