Federal funding welcome relief for opioid crisis and health system

Alberta Liberal Leader Dr. David Swann welcomes the announcement of federal government funding for the opioid crisis, mental health and home care.

“This is good news,” says Swann. “The opioid-crisis urgently needed these resources. However, money alone will not solve this. We must have better, focused leadership and a more comprehensive, cross-jurisdictional strategy.”

In addition to the $6 million in immediate support to Alberta’s opioid-crisis response, the federal government is offering targeted investments of $703.2 million for home care and $586 million for mental health initiatives over the next decade.

“Mental health is certainly an area in desperate need of substantial further investment,” says Swann. “And doubling the investment in home care is a long-standing Alberta Liberal policy.”

“We believe these measures will help improve care, reduce costs, and lower wait times by alleviating pressure on our acute care system.”

Member’s Statement by David Swann, March 9th

Alberta Liberal Leader David Swann made the following Private Member’s Statement to the assembly today:

“This week, in a rare display of nonpartisan cooperation, we held an important debate on the opioid crisis, and I thank my colleagues for that.

“We also heard from two courageous advocates for better education and more action on the devastating effects of opioid abuse and addiction.

“Petra Shultz, who lost her son, Danny, works with Moms Stop the Harm – a network of Canadian mothers and families whose loved ones have died from substance misuse. And Rosalind Davis, who lost her partner, Nathan, and works with Changing the Face of Addiction, a not-for-profit seeking political change and to educate the public about drug and addiction issues. They say the government’s refusal to call a state of emergency is unacceptable and that it perpetuates a stigma about opioid-related deaths.

“To its credit, the government has taken many positive steps, which I applaud, but its approach has mainly been reactive and piecemeal.

“Opioid-related overdoses and deaths are reaching unprecedented levels and have now become a national crisis.

“We don’t have the whole picture yet because the data is simply not available. But what we do know, is deeply troubling. In 2016, there were 343 deaths from fentanyl, and many more from other opioids yet to be classified. But, a 33 per cent increase in one year shows this crisis is growing at an alarming rate.

“If we were getting ahead it, then I might agree with the NDP, but, we’re five years into this, and the government, by its own admission, is still developing the strategy.

“We require focused leadership, and a cross-departmental strategy that would provide co-ordination between all government ministries and across all sectors of society.

“Finally, we need to recognize this for what it is, an emergency, and use every means at our disposal to save Albertans’ lives.”

Swann questions government on fentanyl-related crime

In Question Period today, Alberta Liberal Leader Dr. David Swann questioned the NDP government about recently-obtained statistics from the Calgary Police Service (CPS).

Swann received a briefing note from the CPS indicating a steady increase in fentanyl-related calls to police, charges being laid, and property crimes attributed to addictions.

“A briefing note I obtained from the Calgary Police Service shows the further impact fentanyl is having on policing resources and in the community. In 2016, CPS responded to 223 overdose calls, resulting in 111 fentanyl-related charges. These numbers have risen dramatically over the last 5 years. There has also been a corresponding spike in property crime driven by addiction. If the government has all the resources it needs, why do these numbers keep going up?”

Swann also questioned the government on the 10 Albertans who died while in police custody in 2016. Two of their deaths have been confirmed to be the result of overdoses, and six more cases remain pending investigation.

Finally, Swann argued that the pervasive nature of the opioid crisis requires leadership and a comprehensive, cross-jurisdictional plan, one that would have to be provided in a state of emergency. He questioned when the government would make such a plan available to the public.

CPS Briefing Note prepared for Dr. David Swann (Redacted)
Letter of reply from Kathleen Ganley Minister of Justice Re reports concerning death due to overdoses (Feb 02 2017)

Calgary Herald and Edmonton Journal Editorial Boards on the opioid crisis

 Calgary Herald: Fentanyl is a crisis

“There are some who mistakenly believe this is a crisis of Albertans’ own making — that nobody forces them to swallow the pills. As Liberal Leader David Swann, who is a medical doctor, points out, most people who become addicted to opioids start out taking them for legitimate reasons.”

Edmonton Journal: Declaring opioid crisis has merits

“Liberal interim Leader David Swann has stated that if some disease was killing Albertans at the same rate as opioids, the government would launch an immediate and overwhelming response. Swann and his opposition colleagues want a proactive plan to deal with the epidemic, more emergency care beds and better leadership.”

Media Round-Up: Opposition Parties Issue United Call for Action on Opioid Overdose Crisis

Edmonton Journal: Alberta anticipates federal funds to battle opioid crisis as opposition slams NDP response

“Liberal interim leader David Swann first called for the debate last week, saying the NDP was refusing to treat the situation with the urgency it deserves.”

CBC: Opposition parties unite to call for fentanyl public health emergency

“Swann, a former medical officer of health, said the government needs to have a plan to avoid the current piecemeal approach to the fentanyl crisis.”

CTV: Opposition parties demand action on fentanyl crisis

“There needs to be a clear plan that includes all the stakeholders involved in caring for people with addictions, mental health, homelessness and whatever other social and financial issues they are dealing with,” said David Swann, Alberta Liberal Leader.”

660 News: Alberta opposition demands extraordinary measures to fight fentanyl overdoses

““We’re not getting a handle on this,” Liberal Leader David Swann said Monday at a legislature news conference. “It this were an influenza outbreak, you would see a state of emergency called.””