Northern Ontario mayors call for help to deal with opioid, addictions crisis
It’s a collective cry for help across the north, with the five large urban mayors all calling for help to deal with opioid overdoses and addictions.
“We have got to grab this crisis by the neck right now,” said Timmins Mayor George Pirie. “It’s that urgent, because people are dying on our streets.”
The opioid and addictions crisis wasn’t the only topic on the agenda for the virtual Northern Ontario Large Urban Mayors Meeting on Tuesday, but it's one everyone agrees needs to be addressed immediately.
“We need immediate help specifically designed for northern Ontario,” said Sault Ste. Marie Mayor Christian Provenzano. “We need additional funds for northern Ontario so that our communities can start to work through the very significant challenges we have. Those are conversations that have to be had.”
The mayors said it’s just too big of a problem for municipalities to tackle on their own.
“This is bigger than the municipality, I think it’s even bigger than the provincial and federal government. I think society has to come together to find solutions,” said North Bay Mayor Al McDonald.
“I can tell you, it’s really out of my league. I’ve learned so much over the last couple of years on opioids and homelessness and I continue to learn more, but we really need the experts to come in and assist us.”
Greater Sudbury Mayor, Brian Bigger said collectively, the mayors are asking for help.
“What we’re expecting to do here is reach out to the provincial government, as well as the federal government, looking for additional supports because the help and support can’t come quick enough,” Bigger said.
“It is impacting our communities and the people living in our communities in so many ways. We feel that there is a great urgency here.”
McDonald said there are two main requests.
“One is a meeting with the prime minister and the premier, because they both need to be at the table," he said. "The second piece is a national strategy on the opioid crisis."
Other topics the mayors discussed included several financial issues, and the housing and homelessness situation were also discussed.
Officials said that all of these challenges are interrelated, but agree the opioid epidemic and addiction crisis is the most pressing.
“It’s clear when you look at the data year over year that the problem isn’t getting better so we’re not being successful,” said Provenzano. “We need help. We need help from the province. We need help from the feds.”