Mayor Tory talks opioid crisis strategy with ex-US congressman Patrick Kennedy


The Mayor of Toronto met on Wednesday morning with an advisor to the White House to talk about the city's fight against opioid drugs.

Former US Congressman Patrick J. Kennedy is a recovering addict and a passionate mental health advocate who recently wrapped up work on an advisory committee to President Donald Trump.

He's also the son of ex-Senator Bobby Kennedy and the nephew of former US president John F. Kennedy.

Kennedy's recent work surrounded making recommendations to the Trump administration surrounding ways to get the upper hand on potentially deadly drugs, like fentanyl.

His meeting with Mayor Tory comes a day after the release of a troubling Health Canada report that suggests this country is losing the battle against opioids.

The research shows a 45 per cent spike in overdose deaths over the course of the last year.

Tory says that he and the former Congressman agree that there are no new, miracle solutions on the horizon.

Instead, they talked about ways to use existing methods and tools to Toronto's advantage.

"(Kennedy) emphasized a great deal the connection between proper housing, employment, and a sense of respect that people have by not being stigmatized by their mental illness," says Tory.

The Mayor contends that a years-long history of under-funding social programs that help people strugging with poverty and addiction has brought about 'a crisis' in Toronto.

"If you look at our situation with homeless and some of the challenges facing our police service, its because we haven't adequately provided for people with mental illness," he says.

Tory adds that while new technology can help keep track of and intervene with someone who might be at risk of falling back into drug use, there is no replacement for safe and affordable housing.

The Mayor is cautiously optimistic that recent funding announcements for mental health supports related to the provincial election campaign are a sign that help might be on the way.

Tory will hold a summit of mental health experts in April to discuss ways to tackle the opioid crisis.