The following is a statement from Camille Quenneville, CEO, Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA), Ontario Division, in reaction to today’s $32.7 million provincial investment to address substance use:
“The number of Ontarians dying due to opioid-related overdoses and poisoning was a crisis before the pandemic and continues to be a crisis today. More people are dying now due to opioid-related causes than ever before.
“Statistics from Public Health Ontario show that 2020 was the worst year on record for opioid-related deaths. More than 2,400 people died last year, a 60 per cent increase over 2019 when more than 1,500 deaths were reported.
“Given the tragic magnitude of opioid-related deaths in Ontario, we support the provincial government’s investment in evidence-based practices to support people living with substance use issues.
“Across Ontario, local branches of the Canadian Mental Health Association are front-line providers of addictions services in their communities. CMHAs offer a variety of supports that include but are not limited to harm-reduction and peer support workers, addiction counselling, rapid access addiction medicine clinics and both residential and non-residential withdrawal management programs.
“While today’s investment is welcome, CMHA Ontario would encourage the government to go further to support individuals and communities struggling with substance use issues.
“Harm reduction measures to consider include safer opioid supply initiatives given that people using unregulated street drugs may not realize they are consuming fentanyl, a deadly high-strength opioid that accounts for the majority of opioid-related deaths.
“Also, the government can increase the cap on the number of consumption and treatment services sites across Ontario, which is currently 21. Consumption and treatment services sites prevent overdose deaths and connects people who use drugs with wraparound supports offered by community-based agencies.”
“CMHA Ontario applauds today’s announcement, and we stand ready to work with government and mental health and addictions providers to be part of the solution to the deadly opioid crisis.”
About Canadian Mental Health Association, Ontario
Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA), Ontario is a not-for-profit, charitable organization. We work to improve the lives of all Ontarians through leadership, collaboration and continual pursuit of excellence in community-based mental health and addictions services. Our vision is a society that embraces and invests in the mental health of all people. We are a trusted advisor to government, contributing to health systems development through policy formulation and recommendations that promote positive mental health. Our 28 local CMHA branches, together with community-based mental health and addictions service providers across the province, serve approximately 500,000 Ontarians each year.
For more information, contact:
Senior Strategic Communications Advisor
Canadian Mental Health Association, Ontario
T: 416-977-5580, ext. 4175