SASKATOON - Official Opposition Leader Ryan Meili called on the Sask. Party government today to accept responsibility for the overdose crisis that is taking lives at an unprecedented rate in Saskatchewan.
“The overdose crisis is spiralling out of control while Scott Moe and the Sask. Party ignore this public health emergency,” said Meili. “This is costing lives and leaving families and communities shattered.”
Meili noted that Saskatchewan saw 377 overdose deaths in 2020, up by more than double the amount in 2019. So far in 2021, the rate of deaths has only escalated. With the coroner reporting an exceptionally deadly batch on the streets, there is real fear in the community that Saskatchewan’s overwhelmed crisis response system is at the breaking point.
“Addiction takes a heavy toll on our communities and our families. It’s scary that there is a new batch out there that is even more deadly,” said Meili. “We need to take every step possible to get people the help they need and save lives, including harm reduction measures like overdose prevention sites. The alternative is more deaths on our streets, and that cannot be accepted.”
Official Opposition Critic for Mental health and Addictions Doyle Vermette said: “New Democrats have consistently called for an evidence-based strategy to tackle our opioid and crystal meth crisis. The Sask. Party government needs to stop ignoring what is happening in front of our eyes and make life-saving investments focused on awareness and harm reduction in our major centres, in the North, and in remote and rural communities.”
Specifically, Saskatchewan New Democrats are calling on the government to address the overdose crisis by:
- Making Naloxone kits available for free at pharmacies throughout the province
- Approving and funding safe consumption sites in Saskatoon, Regina and throughout the province where possible, while making remote video overdose prevention support available for people in areas without access to those sites
- Guaranteeing timelines for access to mental health and addictions treatment, including dedicated mental health and addictions emergency rooms
- Using drug courts to attach users to treatment and rehabilitation rather than responding to the illness of addiction with incarceration
- Study of safe prescription alternatives used in other jurisdictions and the applicability in Saskatchewan
- Working with law enforcement to crack down on the toxic supply on our streets
Meili added: “As law enforcement leaders tell us, we will never police our way out of a public health emergency. As much as possible, we must act with compassion to reduce the harm being done on our streets and get people the help they need.”