April 13, 2017

As British Columbia marks the one-year anniversary of the fentanyl crisis being declared a public health emergency, the Mayors' Task Force on the Opioid Crisis is releasing its initial recommendations to the federal government to better deal with opioid addictions and overdoses across Canada, focusing specifically on the lack of data collection and information sharing. 

Of the 13 cities on the Task Force, only two — Vancouver and Surrey, in British Columbia — have access to monthly overdose data from local health authorities.

Only six Task Force cities — Calgary, Edmonton, Montreal, Vancouver, Surrey, and Winnipeg — have access to the most recent 2016 data on overdose deaths.

Fentanyl is the leading cause of drug overdose death in one-third of the Canadian cities represented by the Task Force, but there are huge challenges in collecting and accessing basic data — let alone ample and timely access to addictions treatment and care," said Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson, Chair of the Task Force. 

"We need a strong national response to fix this data problem and scale up an immediate increase in medical solutions to save lives. The glaring gaps in drug overdose data mask the seriousness of the fentanyl crisis and are a dangerous barrier to addressing the horrific overdose death toll impacting families across Canada."

The Task Force is calling on the federal government to ensure a new pan-Canadian standard for collecting, reporting and improving access to data about opioid overdoses and deaths. This would include a minimum of quarterly reports and a target of monthly reports in all provinces/territories. Any reporting would need to incorporate demographic data, including the impacts of opioid use on Indigenous communities. 

"We can't end this crisis without clear data on what's happening on the ground — and involving cities in the solution," said Mayor Robertson. 

The Task Force has met with the Federal Ministers of Health and Public Safety and has reached out to the federal, provincial and territorial Ministers of Health to discuss next steps in a coordinated response to the opioid crisis. The goal is to reduce drug overdose deaths and immediately save lives with more effective evidence-based solutions. A meeting is in the works for later this spring. 

The mayors are also working with their cities and local experts to develop full recommendations for a pan-Canadian action plan encompassing harm reduction, treatment, prevention and enforcement.

The Mayors' Task Force on the Opioid Crisis convenes mayors of 13 cities: Vancouver, Surrey, Edmonton, Calgary, Regina, Saskatoon, Winnipeg, Hamilton, London, Kitchener, Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal. The Task Force was launched on February 3, 2017, by the Big-City Mayors' Caucus of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities.

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

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