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Toxic drug crisis 'complex and escalating', report concludes

Summary report said the status quo is unacceptable and calls for removing barriers, changing attitudes, changing policies and spending more money to help people live better, suffer less and stay alive 
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The Crosses for Change opioid crisis memorial in downtown Sudbury.

The toxic drug crisis killing hundreds of people every year and enslaving thousands in addiction is a complex and escalating tragedy, the region’s health unit said today. 

In a formal report on the Greater Sudbury Summit on Toxic Drugs held in December, 2023, Public Health Sudbury & Districts said while the crisis occurring nationally, it is disproportionately affecting Greater Sudbury and Northern Ontario.

"Despite the passion and dedication of many Sudbury agencies, leaders, and citizens, the city continues to witness growing numbers of preventable deaths and human suffering related to toxic drugs,” the health unit said in a release that accompanied the full report. 

Public Health Sudbury and Districts said the best “brains” and “hearts” were invited to the table “to face and collectively plan the community’s path through and out of the crisis," said the report

The detailed 47-page document is titled Honouring Voices, Embracing Perspectives, Moving Forward: A Summary Report on the Greater Sudbury Summit on Toxic Drugs.

The follow-up summary comes 54 days after the summit event was held, on Dec. 7-8 at the Dr. Edgar Leclair Community Centre and Arena in Azilda, with leaders and decision-makers from a wide variety of health and social wellness agencies in Sudbury. The event was hosted by the City of Greater Sudbury and Public Health Sudbury & Districts (PHSD).

The document said the summit took in two days of presentations from more than 35 experts on diverse topics, including people with lived and living experience of substance use, epidemiologists, research scientists, and experts in harm reduction, treatment, health and social services, public health, education, justice, and industry. 

Participants also benefited from Indigenous teachings by First Nations leaders, Elders, and Knowledge Keepers, said the report.

The document also listed priorities for action, which included dealing with the following;

  • Structural stigma;
  • Collaboration;
  • System equity and elimination of barriers to access;
  • Funding.

These included learning to treat everyone involved in addiction with dignity and respect; creating new partnerships to promote more connections and collaboration between various interests; taking action to promote safer spaces along with modfying existing policies and practices to promote better access for BIPOC populations; and to proactively seek out better funding sources.

The document also featured a statement on following the summit.

"A clear and emphatic message from all Summit participants was that the toll of preventable deaths and suffering from toxic drugs requires cross-community commitment to collective action," said the report. 

"The current state is unacceptable. Local solutions must be grounded in those whose lives are affected by the crisis. Local action — in promoting health and resiliency, in ensuring opportunities for healthy living conditions, and in providing stigma-free, client-centred care — will add up to personal dignity, lives saved, and suffering averted for the people of Greater Sudbury. It is a collective duty.”

Len Gillis covers health care and mining for

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Len Gillis

About the Author: Len Gillis

Graduating from the Journalism program at Canadore College in the 1970s, Gillis has spent most of his career reporting on news events across Northern Ontario with several radio, television and newspaper companies. He also spent time as a hardrock miner.
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