On a day when Nova Scotians are honoring loved ones who have died because of an overdose the provincial government announced it will be delaying the life saving naloxone distribution program. This program was one of the few interventions that had a specific timeline in Nova Scotia’s Opioid Action Plan released in July.
Get Prescription Drugs Off The Street (GPDOTS) is shocked and disappointed with the news that naloxone will not be available at no cost to the public from pharmacies September 1st as promised. Nova Scotia’s promise of monthly reporting on opioid related deaths has also not been fulfilled, the last reporting month being June 2017. This raises serious questions about the level of commitment and urgency the government is demonstrating to properly respond to the opioid crisis.
Not only is the government behind in making naloxone more widely available and regularly reporting overdose deaths like other provinces, Nova Scotia has yet to announce plans for the development of safe injection sites or the expansion of addiction treatment services.
A new youth focused public awareness campaign is allegedly being launched this fall. GPDOTS wonders if the government has consulted with those who have lived experience or are working on the frontlines as they have an important voice. GPDOTS has been given an opportunity to collaborate on several initiatives the Alberta government has been working on alongside other advocates. It appears as though Nova Scotia has been failing to include those with lived experience in the new Opioid Action Plan and its initiatives.
Nova Scotia needs to urgently focus on decreasing the demand for opioids as the supply becomes more toxic and deadlier than ever. The only way to do this is by beefing up addiction services, expanding accessibility to harm reduction (including naloxone and safe injection sites), and reducing stigma by treating substance use as a health issue not a moral failing. Once we have established the proper supports for those already using we must do everything in our power to prevent new people from being exposed to opioids unnecessarily through more cautious opioid prescribing and education.
After almost 7 years of advocating for action on the opioid crisis positive changes have occurred, but far too slow and far too few. The clock keeps ticking and we need more action not more planning.
As policymakers talk Nova Scotians continue to die.
Get Prescription Drugs off the Street is a grass roots organization started by Amy Graves in 2011 after the loss of her younger brother Josh due to an accidental hydromorphone overdose. GPDOTS evolved into a non-profit Get Prescription Drugs off the Street Society in early 2014. This editorial was originally published on its website.
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