Dr. Swann Member Statement on Opioid Use – 9 March 2017

Taken from the Alberta Hansard for Thursday, March 9, 2017.

Member Statement – Opioid Use

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. This week in a rare display of nonpartisan co-operation we held an important debate on the opioid crisis, and I thank my colleagues across both sides for that.

We also heard from two courageous advocates for better education and more action on the devastating effects of opioid abuse and addiction. Petra Schulz, who lost her son Danny, works with Moms Stop the Harm, a network of Canadian mothers and families whose loved ones have died from substance misuse. Rosalind Davis, who lost her partner Nathan, started the Changing the Face of Addiction organization, a not-for-profit seeking political change and reduced stigma on drug and addictions issues. They say that the government’s refusal to recognize a state of emergency is unacceptable. It perpetuates stigma about opioid-related deaths.

To its credit, the government has taken a number of positive steps, but its approach has mainly been reactive, not integrated across government and nongovernment organizations. Opioid-related overdoses and deaths are reaching unprecedented levels and have now become a national crisis. We don’t have the whole picture yet because the data is simply not available, but what we do know is deeply troubling. In 2016 there were 343 deaths just from fentanyl and many more from other opioids yet to be classified. This 33 per cent increase in one year shows that the crisis is growing at an alarming rate.

If we were getting ahead of it, then I might agree with the NDP, but we’re five years into this, and the government, by its own admission, is still developing the strategy. We require focused leadership and a crossdepartment strategy that would provide co-ordination between all government ministries and nongovernment sectors of society.

Finally, we need to recognize this for what it is, an emergency, and use every means at our disposal to save Albertans’ lives.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.