Tiny Town's Massive Drug Meltdown
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A remote First Nations reserve in northern Ontario has declared a state of emergency over alarmingly high rates of prescription drug abuse. Cat Lake—which has a population of 480 and is only accessible by aircraft—reports 150 registered prescription drug addicts and 120 suspected addicts who aren't registered. “These people have no access to treatment whatsoever and the wait lists are 40 days to six months,” says community spokesman Russell Wesley. “[Addicts seeking help] are not able to access programs because there is nothing available locally and wait lists are way too long to access outside the community.” Wesley adds that the Canadian government has been slow to respond to community requests, such as a proposed drug treatment program for opiate dependency. But Steve Outhouse, spokesperson for Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq, says the government has already earmarked $700,000 to fund community-based drug programs for First Nations communities. Susan Russell, Health Canada's acting regional director for First Nations and Inuit Health, says two community wellness workers have been made available to Cat Lake.