While the federal health minister says it “breaks her heart” to watch the Global News story about a family ripped apart by a fentanyl overdose, there is no funding or services planned to help children caught up in the opioid crisis.
WATCH: The tragic impact of Canada’s opioid crisis on children
“Having been a frontline social worker with the RCMP for a number of years, I’ve unfortunately had to do too many death notifications to family members. So I certainly recognize the trauma that’s associated to an unexpected death, and it’s really important to ensure that children receive the grief counselling that they need for them to properly recover,” Ginette Petitpas Taylor told Global News.
But nothing is in the works at the federal level to help children.
“Our focus is really dealing on making sure that services are on the ground to prevent these deaths from happening,” the health minister said.
Budget 2018 committed $150 million in an Emergency Treatment Fund to help provinces and territories improve access to treatment. Funding beyond $250,000 needs to be matched by the provinces.
Ottawa is divvying up those funds based on need and population.
So far, British Columbia, hit hardest by the crisis, is getting the most money, at $71.7 million ($33.98 million from the feds and $37.76 million from the provincial government). Some details have been released about plans in New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Quebec and Saskatchewan.
“Our government has made mental health a priority and that’s why we’re in the process of finalizing bilateral agreements with provinces and territories,” she said.
“My heart certainly goes out to these young children that have lost a parent and a loved one as a result of the crisis. I think the best thing that we can do as a government is really to do all that we can to prevent more of these deaths from happening,” Petitpas Taylor said.
B.C. has this country’s only minister of mental health and addictions. Judy Darcy isn’t promising any specifics for funding around children caught up in the opioid crisis either, but she tells Global News there is a big focus provincially on trauma-informed counselling for children and youth, as well as fighting stigma.
“We are also investing heavily in something called Foundry youth hubs. And this is for children and youth at risk ages 12-24 who can come in there for whatever issue they’re dealing with. Most often, it’s a substance use issue, but often that can also be substance use and families. It can be about the intergenerational trauma that is often associated with this,” Darcy said.
The provincial minister said she’s very excited about the work being done at Vancouver Island University. They believe they’re the only place in the country developing programming specifically for children caught up in the opioid crisis.
“We really need to come at this in many directions at once, and what Vancouver Island University is doing really fits very well with the direction of our government,” Darcy said.
Currently, Statistics Canada does not collect any data on children connected to the opioid crisis. We know 11 Canadians are dying every day, but there’s no clear picture of how many children are impacted by those losses, or exactly what the impact is.
Petitpas Taylor said she does support collecting more data to be “better equipped” to deal with the opioid crisis, but offered no commitments.
“We need to get good real data and good surveillance in order for us to be able to make the proper investments to get the treatment that people need,” Petitpas Taylor said.