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Northern mayors 'plead for help' from province in battling mental health and addiction issues

'We feel it's very much a health crisis and we are asking for help from everybody, with all the mayors speaking with one voice, to help us with this crisis'
20201021 homeless mental health turl
The homeless and drug addiction issues were front and centre at the northern mayor's meeting. Jeff Turl/BayToday.

Northern Ontario’s Large Urban Mayors (NOLUM) are "pleading" for help from the province to help with mental health and addiction problems in their cities.

NOLUM consists of the mayors of North Bay, Sudbury, Sault Ste. Marie, Timmins and Thunder Bay.

Among the agenda items at a virtual meeting today were homelessness, addictions and mental health.

North Bay Mayor Al McDonald says the group will be writing a letter to the government as a short term solution, but stated a longterm strategy is needed.

"Municipalities, in general, provide services to our community but when it comes to mental health and addictions, I don't know of any other city that has mental health workers or doctors on staff. We have no one on our staff that has been educated or has those skillsets to deal with mental health and addictions."

McDonald says North Bay tries to reach out to community partners for help.

"We recognize as municipalities that the issue is really more on the medical side. There is no question that individuals are falling through the cracks, and what you're hearing from the five mayors today is 'Listen, we don't have that expertise on staff' but we're not just going to hand it off and say 'You guys deal with it.'"

McDonald says municipalities want to be at the table to provide whatever resources and effort they have to try to find some of the solutions to the challenges.

"But we as communities just absolutely don't have those types of resources. We recognize we just don't have the expertise." He adds all large centres across the province are struggling with the same issue.

Timmins mayor George Pirie said most of the calls to police are not criminal, but mental health-related.

" We feel it's very much a health crisis and we are asking for help from everybody, with all the mayors speaking with one voice, to help us with this crisis."




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Jeff Turl

About the Author: Jeff Turl

Jeff is a veteran of the news biz. He's spent a lengthy career in TV, radio, print and online, covering both news and sports. He enjoys free time riding motorcycles and spoiling grandchildren.
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