UPDATE: Barrie Stops Short of Declaring Opioid Crisis A Public Health Emergency

City Hall Motion Asks For Federal, Provincial Funding To Be Redirected to Combat Crisis

City Hall is working towards declaring a Public Health Emergency over Barrie’s opioid crisis, in the hopes it will spur other levels of government into action. A ratification Monday night has those involved looking for added funding.

A motion discussing that declaration, prepared by rookie Councillors Keenan Aylwin and Natalie Harris, was presented at the regular Monday night meeting at City Hall last week. It was ratified at the March 4th meeting with a few modifications: city staff will be instructed to work with federal and provincial counterparts to look for further funding opportunities in combating the crisis. Barrie Councillor Barry Ward says this amendment was a result of a plea from Barrie-area MP Alex Nuttall.

Related: Barrie-Area MP Pushes for Plan Before Making Opioid Health Emergency Declaration

The motion has city staff looking into the implications of having the mayor declare a Public Health Emergency; if one were declared, the local government would get in touch with provincial and federal counterparts to ask for discussion and funding. With these governmental heads coming together, it is expected a plan of attack could be formulated.

Related: Health Unit Says Lived Experience Is Helping Guide Opioid Battleplan

It is hoped this motion will spur legislators on all three levels of government to come to the table with not only ideas, but money to help combat the issue. “Councillor Keenan Aylwin and I felt it was very necessary to bring awareness and ask for funds that haven’t arrived to the City of Barrie directly.” says Councillor Harris “we thought the best way to do that is to put a motion on the floor that requests federal and provincial governments come to the table in Barrie and discuss the crisis.”

This motion asks for a written response from both the federal and provincial Ministers of Health within three weeks of the declaration. It also looks to redirect funding towards treatment and rehabilitation services, addiction prevention, and harm reduction.

“The fact of the matter is, people are already dying across Canada, and we have to do more than what we’re doing

Natalie Harris, Councillor, Ward 6

Harris isn’t concerned with how this declaration will make Barrie look on the national stage “I have some spoken to some people, my constituents, and they say ‘will this look bad on Barrie? What are the optics on this?’ The optics are already there.” she says, “The fact of the matter is, people are already dying across Canada, and we have to do more than what we’re doing because what we’re doing still isn’t curbing the death rate.”

There were 81 opioid-related deaths in Simcoe-Muskoka in 2017, while 36 of those were in Barrie.

Related: Spike in Overdose Visits to RVH So Far This Month

Language in the motion also asks the federal and provincial governments address the root causes of addiction, including housing, poverty, unemployment, mental illness, and trauma.

The report back on the procedure and implications of declaring such an emergency is expected in three weeks’ time. Meanwhile, a presentation on the state of the region’s opioid crisis by members of the health unit is expected in front of Barrie City Council next week.