Canada's Health Minister Approves Emergency Overdose Prevention Sites

Ginette Petitpas Taylor, the federal Minister of Health, had announced in November that Health Canada would authorize emergency overdose prevention sites for provinces and territories that request them, as an "immediate short-term response to save lives."

Ginette Petitpas Taylor, Canada's federal Minister of Health, recently announced she has approved Ontario's request for approval of emergency overdose prevention sites there.

"I am concerned and saddened by the latest data on opioid-related overdose deaths from Ontario," she said. "Each opioid-related death is a lost family member, friend, community member and Canadian. We must all take a moment to acknowledge the immense loss for the communities and families impacted by this crisis across this country. These numbers confirm that the current crisis is worsening despite our collective efforts to date. Every day, individual Canadians from all walks of life and all parts of the country are losing their lives to this crisis. And the numbers continue to climb. I believe this crisis requires a comprehensive whole-of-government response. It is absolutely critical that we address both the immediate crisis and the longer-term factors at the roots of problematic substance use."

She had announced in November that Health Canada would authorize emergency overdose prevention sites for provinces and territories that request them, as an "immediate short-term response to save lives," she said. The Government of Ontario formally requested approval for overdose prevention facilities in the province, and Taylor spoke with Ontario Health Minister Dr. Eric Hoskins to discuss the situation and then confirmed that Health Canada had received all of the documentation from Ontario and had granted its request for a class exemption.

Taylor said this emergency action echoes efforts taken in British Columbia to address the opioids crisis there. "These overdose prevention sites are one step in what has been and will continue to be a concerted and urgent response to this crisis," she explained. "This crisis is unlike any other public health crisis we have experienced in recent years. For that reason, I am committed to moving quickly on my mandate to review Canada's framework for dealing with public health emergencies in collaboration with the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness. Through this review, I have asked Health Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada to identify any additional measures or powers that would help me, as Minister of Health, address the current crisis and any similar crisis in future."

"I am committed to making sure that we have the appropriate resources and tools needed to address this crisis," she added. "Whether it is increasing access to treatment services for all Canadians, reducing systemic barriers like stigma that prevent people from receiving help, or expanding the evidence base to inform and evaluate our response, the government of Canada will continue to work hand-in-hand with the provinces and territories, health professionals, front-line workers, and people with lived and living experience to reverse the trend of opioid overdoses and deaths in Canada."

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