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National advocates question, resign from Alberta committee to reduce opioid overdoses

Click to play video: 'Harm reduction groups pull out of Alberta safe supply committee' Harm reduction groups pull out of Alberta safe supply committee
Some harm reduction advocacy groups invited to take part in the Alberta government's committee to review safe supply have pulled out. They are making claims an outcome is already determined, but the province says it wants to hear from not just them — but a variety of experts. Sarah Komadina has the details – Feb 7, 2022

Two national organizations have resigned from a provincial committee struck to examine the use of a “safe supply” to reduce opioid overdoses and drug poisonings.

They’re also questioning the true motives of the committee.

“Regrettably, it was made clear from the moment of the committee’s announcement by Associate Minister of Mental Health and Addictions Mike Ellis that the outcome of the committee had been predetermined: the potential benefits of providing safe supply to Albertans at risk of death from drug poisoning would not be weighed fairly against perceived risks,” the open letter from Moms Stop the Harm and Each + Every said.

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It’s the latest round of resignations from the committee that was named on Dec. 7, 2021. On Friday, four Opposition MLAs informed Speaker Nathan Cooper of their departure from the committee of 12 MLAs.

“Instead of studying this important question of public health policy in good faith, UCP members are clearly intent on staging an extended political stunt. This is unconscionable,” the NDP letter read.

The letter from the national organizations quoted Calgary-Cross MLA Mickey Amery saying the committee would “follow the evidence and use the information provided by North America’s leading experts, not the radicals or the activists,” which Moms Stop the Harm and Each + Every took to mean their cooperation.

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Experts explore multitude of strategies to curb opioid poisoning crisis – Dec 28, 2021

Moms Stop the Harm is a network of parents and families who have been directly impacted by harm and death related to substance abuse and advocate for changes to policy and stigma around substance use.

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Each + Every is a coalition of businesses from across Canada who support harm reduction and advocate for policy changes to help with drug poisonings. They also help members prevent drug poisonings in or near their operations through narcan or naloxone kits and training.

Read more: Alberta Court of Appeal reserves decision on ID policy for supervised drug use sites

The open letter said the list of presenters for the committee have been “hand-picked for their stances against safe supply,” a repeat of the supervised consumption services review in 2020.

“While American-style prohibitionist views feature prominently among the UCP-selected panelists, critical omissions among the UCP selections betray unmovable bias in the committee that lends itself to consent manufacturing for maintaining the status quo.”

The letter, signed by Petra Schultz and Euan Thomson, said the committee lacks representation from academic research on safe supply, people who have been prescribed safe supply drugs and physicians issuing those types of prescriptions.

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Edmonton Zone Medical Staff Association raises concerns over province’s response to opioid crisis – Dec 12, 2021

About four Albertans die from drug poisonings daily, and almost 1,400 deaths were recorded between January and October of last year.

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In a statement to Global News, Amery said members of the bi-partisan committee brought a list of subject matter experts to speak on the issue. He said the UCP members brought 21 names and the NDP brought six, noting all were approved to speak to the committee.

“It’s unfortunate that the NDP and some of their stakeholders have chosen not to participate in this important work, but the committee’s work will continue, including hearing from all approved stakeholders who wish to participate,” Amery, the committee’s spokesperson, said.

–with files from The Canadian Press

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