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Drug policy coalition hoping Ottawa forum kicks off 'bold new approach to drugs in this country'

The Canadian coalition's executive director says policy-makers are meeting with community organizations and people with lived experience to form a plan which could curb opioid deaths.
Prescription pill bottle containing oxycodone and acetaminophen are shown in this June 20, 2012 photo. The rate of fatal overdoses from opioids such as oxycodone and morphine has soared over the last 20 years as prescriptions for the addictive and highly potent painkillers have continued to rise, an Ontario study has found. (Graeme Roy, The Canadian Press)

The opioid crisis, which started in cities across Canada well before the COVID-19 pandemic took hold, is taking centre stage at a forum being held in Ottawa.

Wendy Muckle, CEO of Ottawa Inner City Health and Donald MacPherson, executive director of the Canadian Drug Policy Coalition, are both participating in the dialogue event happening Tuesday, September 14, called "Getting to Tomorrow: Ending the Overdose Crisis."

The forum includes regional and national harm reduction and drug policy organizations as well as politicians from various levels of government.

Muckle and MacPherson both joined CityNews' The Sam Laprade Show on Tuesday, September 14, to talk about what they hope will come from the event.

"[The forum] allows people to come and engage across sectors, hear from people with lived experience about what it's really like to use substances within a framework that criminalizes them, stigmatises them and makes it much more difficult to access the services that are available," explains MacPherson. "We're hoping to build consensus for a bold new approach to drugs in this country."

Muckle says too many people have been dying due to drug overdose in Ottawa for too long, and it's an issue that has not gained the political traction that it deserves.

"It has been very hard to sustain the level of grieving that we've had to do as a community for the length of time that we've had to do it, and it's very hard to find positives in all of this," she continues. "But I think that if we don't honour those lives, if we don't remember them and be inspired by them and occasionally talk to [people with lived experiences] and get their advice, I think all of this work really falls apart and all we're left with is our grief."

"We have to use that grief to really fuel positive changes as a society," adds Muckle.

Listen to the full Sam Laprade Show interview with Muckle and MacPherson:


Mike Vlasveld

About the Author: Mike Vlasveld

Mike Vlasveld, Digital Editor, CityNews Ottawa & the Valley
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