Outreach groups in Moncton are calling on all political parties to support the opening of overdose prevention sites across the province.
Debby Warren, executive director of Ensemble Moncton, told Global News she has what she needs in place to open an overdose prevention site in the city but that what is missing is the political will to do so.
“We need to do the urgent public health need now,” said Warren.
Warren is calling on all political parties to commit to providing $600,000 to fund sites in Moncton, Saint John and Fredericton.
“People come in and bring their own drug and we have test strips and they can test their drug in a well-lit, hygienic setting,” she said.
She says people with addictions need a respectable place to administer drugs safely, which she says will likely save the province hundreds of thousands of dollars in health-care costs.
“It costs taxpayers now heavily by doing nothing,” she said.
By educating people on how to prevent serious infections such as hepatitis C and HIV/AIDS, the number of people being treated in hospitals for drug-related illnesses will likely drop, said Warren.
“We have people who won’t be out on the streets and they will be able to dispose of the needles and other tools that they use,” she said.
Warren said the sites would provide support for 3,000 families across the province impacted by substance abuse as well as alleviate some burden on police services having to deal with the issue at a street level.
“People don’t want to have to watch people using outside, it’s not good for the people who have to use outside, it is humiliating. They are desperate — they have no place to go,” said Warren.
According to the New Brunswick coroner’s office, from January to the end of June, there have been 17 drug-related deaths in New Brunswick.
Dr. Susan Crouse of the Salvus Clinic in Moncton said that, in the last month, opioid use in Moncton is on the rise due to a shortage of crystal meth amid COVID-19.
“We worry about what is the quality of the opioids on the street is there fentanyl and other substance mixed in with that,” said Crouse.
The overdose prevention sites would provide people with strips to test for the deadly drug, said Warren.
“People say you enable drug use. No, no, it is already happening,” Warren said.