By Mark Smith
Drayton Valley-Devon constituency
Opioids kill at least one Albertan every day. This crisis and the related mental health issues are both personal and social tragedies.
The answer to this crisis is not going to be easy. Addiction and mental health issues are complex; a band aid approach will not work.
What hasn’t helped is the response of the Alberta government.
The NDP government has been slow to address this crisis, struggling even to collect and publish the data needed to understand the scope.
They were even slower getting naloxone into the hands of emergency responders so they could save lives.
There has been a vague focus on four areas: Collect and publish data; Expand opioid replacement therapy; Conduct needs assessments for supervised consumption sites and; Address prescription drug misuse.
This is a very weak response.
Wildrose has joined the medical community in urging the government to declare a medical emergency as B.C. has done. With the NDP’s refusal, Albertans are continuing to lose valuable supports that would come with the declaration of a medical emergency.
Almost two years ago, the Auditor General highlighted the lack of a provincial action plan and explicitly called on the Department of Health to produce one. At a meeting on Tuesday, I was discouraged to find out the department has only succeeded in organizing a few committees while in the midst of our provincial opioid crisis.
One of the committees started out with about 60 people and has now ballooned to over 250! While it is wonderful to know that so many people are so committed, a committee of this size is probably not going to be very effective in finding workable solutions.
Even worse, the last meeting of this committee was cancelled because government officials apparently didn’t have anything “meaningful” to talk about. Instead they sent e-mails and a newsletter.
When I asked for the top three actions in their action plan, we learned that there is no plan yet. It would appear that creating committees is the sum total of the government’s efforts in trying to address the Auditor General’s recommendations and save Albertan’s lives.
Albertans and their families who wade through the quagmire of mental health and addictions issues deserve better.
We need an action plan developed by front line workers that will provide easily accessible entry points into the health care system. We need a plan with real strategies on multiple fronts to ensure immediate help is available and further support for long term recovery and rehabilitation.
This is the conclusion of the Auditor General, mental health and addictions professionals, the Opposition and especially Albertans who are facing heartbreak from this opioid crisis.
As always, I invite you to contact my office to discuss this or any other issue.
Mark Smith is the Wildrose MLA for the Drayton Valley-Devon constituency, including much of the County of Wetaskiwin. He can be reached by phone 780-542-3355 toll free 1-800-542-7307, Drayton Valley – Devon constituency office Box 7272 Drayton Valley, AB, T7A 1S5, email firstname.lastname@example.org.