Oshawa Mayor Dan Carter is pushing his colleagues across the region to help fight the opioid epidemic.
This comes after Carter witnessed an overdose behind the parking lot at city hall on Labour Day last week.
“It just broke my heart to see this vulnerable young lady going through this episode and needed assistance immediately,” Carter said.
He says he immediately called security. Shortly after, paramedics arrived to treat the woman.
Carter initially expressed his concerns at a health and social services committee meeting at the region, where he listed modernizing homeless shelters among his priorities.
“Today, many of the clients have different types of disorders. They have severe mental health or a severe addiction,” he said.
“There’s many individuals that can’t be housed with other individuals, so what we’re looking at is what do we need to do to be able to help those individuals have safe shelters.”
Carter says he is also hoping to improve the region’s current needle exchange program.
“Twenty years ago they distributed about 15,000 needles,” Carter said. “They distribute about 615,000 needles now.
“The severity of the sickness and the illness and the addiction is getting worse and worse. We’ve gotta do something significant.”
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Encounters like Carter’s are all too familiar to local homeless shelters across the city.
Staff at Cornerstone say they’re constantly on edge, worried another overdose can happen on any given day.
“It’s a game of Russian roulette out there,” said Executive Director Robert Brglez.
“We experience that almost every month here, where somebody’s overdosing.”
Brglez agrees more needs to be done to fight the opioid crisis, but said the city should be focusing on more affordable housing instead of shelters.
“If shelters do not lead to something, they’re part of the problem. Regardless of how much you modernize them, they’re part of the problem,” he said.
According to the region, about $39 million was spent in 2019 on affordable housing.
“We need to work with our colleagues, and in this case, support mayor Carter and his team with the staff here, whether it be mental health or the funding that we put into social housing,” said Regional Chair John Henry.
As for Mayor Carter, he hopes to continue the conversation in all levels of government.
“This has to change,” he said. “We have to do something different.”
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