Published on November 22nd, 2016 | from CAMH
Federal Government On Board for Opioid Crisis
By Dr. Peter Selby, Director of Medical Education, CAMH
It was an exhausting yet exhilarating end to National Addiction Awareness Week, bookended by two exciting developments. The first was a two-day working meeting I chaired for the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons to develop the core competencies to create Canada’s first diploma in Addiction Medicine. The progress we made gives me hope that we will be able to offer this diploma in a few years to any specialist who serves patients struggling with addiction.
The second was even more momentous.
On Saturday, I was inching my way through the aisle after boarding my return flight from Ottawa to Toronto. I began to dread the climb into the middle economy seat to get home from the very inspiring two-day opioid conference in Ottawa this past Friday and Saturday. Who do I notice in the line behind me? None other than federal Health Minister Jane Philpott.
A few hours earlier, I had watched her expertly chair (with Ontario Health Minister Eric Hoskins) the historic summit where nine provinces and territories signed a declaration to address the opioid crisis in Canada. What was different this time? Real commitments to clear action steps with specific timelines. No more “anti-drug” strategy. And guess what? Harm reduction is back! What a difference patient-centred leadership makes!
I thought Dr. Philpott would have elite status and be sitting in business class at the front of the plane, being a minister and all. However I watched her walk past my seat and take hers somewhere in the back. She travelled like one of us. No fanfare, no entourage, just matter-of-fact.
It feels like this trip was a signal of how this federal government is going to deal with people caught up in this national opioid crisis. No more “anti-drug” language, no more elitist ‘us-versus-them’ rhetoric. In what both she and Minister Hoskins said, it is clear that mental illnesses, including addictions, are legitimate conditions that deserve respect and investment, like any other health problem. They are on board the plane. Now it’s up to us to make a difference.