Kingston-area public health calls for decriminalization of personal use drugs

Megan King/Global News

The opioid and drug poisoning crisis has reached a tipping point according to Kingston, Frontenac and Lennox and Addington Public Health.

The health unit’s Community Drug Safety Advisory Committee is calling on the federal government to decriminalize the use of drugs.

KFL&A Public Health will submit an online petition to the federal government which will also call on the feds to support the provinces’ efforts to respond to the drug poisoning crisis, and to create a standing committee to respond to the crisis to support harm reduction, prevention, and treatment options for people who use substances.

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“Decriminalization is an evidence-informed approach to reducing the harms associated with substance use. In the KFL&A region and across Canada we continue to see drug poisoning deaths rise with no sign of slowing down,” said Dr. Piotr Oglaza, medical officer of health at KFL&A Public Health.

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“It is time to try a new approach, consistently applied throughout the country, that prioritizes the health and well-being of people who use substances. Let’s work together as governments and communities to advance this new approach to save lives.”

The health unit says there was a 27 per cent increase in opioid-related deaths from 2019 to 2020, and there were 31 deaths in the first nine months of 2021.

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“This petition is important because any resulting legislative change will alleviate unnecessary stress on our courts, emergency services, health care systems, and will save lives,” said Sophie Kiwala, a member of the Community Drug Safety Advisory Committee.

“A dedicated stakeholder-advised Standing Committee is a key part of this petition since expert feedback will be critical as the drug poisoning crisis changes over time.”

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