February 24, 2017

Mayors from Canadian cities on the front-line of the opioid crisis met with federal cabinet ministers today, agreeing to strengthen collaboration on strategies to combat overdoses and drug-related deaths.

Health Minister Jane Philpott and Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale met with the Mayors' Task Force on the Opioid Crisis by phone, hearing firsthand how cities are struggling with opioid overdoses and what solutions are starting to make a difference. The mayors identified key barriers to their local efforts, including delays in access to treatment and inadequate data and data sharing

"The fentanyl opioid crisis is a horrific public health emergency that is rapidly spreading across Canada, with an unprecedented death toll," said Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson, who chairs the mayors' task force. "The intense frequency of overdose response is unsustainable and is overwhelming our first responders, front line workers and community volunteers. Cities are ready to work with the provincial and federal governments to solve this public health crisis to immediately save lives and help people recover from addictions."

The mayors say Ministers Philpott and Goodale were receptive to their call for a coordinated response plan across all orders of government − including through local involvement in the national Special Advisory Committee on the opioid crisis. The Ministers also agreed to an in-person meeting with the mayors this spring, with the invitation extended to provinces and territories. In the meantime, the mayors will continue to focus on support for first responders and advocacy for urgent health and supportive housing investments.

The Mayors' Task Force on the Opioid Crisis was launched this month by the Big City Mayors' Caucus of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities. It seeks to share best practices among cities and to collaborate with all orders of government on a national response.

For Mayors' Task Force information and interview requests:

Michael FitzPatrick, Media Relations: mfitzpatrick@fcm.ca or 613-907-6346

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