New England Governors Meet With Canadian Premiers To Discuss Fighting Opioid Addiction

By Kelly Burch 08/30/16

The state and province leaders are set to discuss collaborating efforts to stop opioid trafficking and fighting back against the current drug crisis. 

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New England Governors Meet With Canadian Premiers To Discuss Fighting Opioid Addiction
Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker Photo via YouTube

The 40th annual Conference of New England Governors and Eastern Canadian Premiers took place this week in Boston, and the opiate epidemic was high on the list of topics for discussion, as officials from both sides of the border tried to figure out ways to stem the flow of heroin and other opioids in their communities. 

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker hopes to bring the Canadian premiers (from five of Canada's provinces: New Brunswick, Newfoundland & Labrador, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Quebec) into the "Compact to Fight Opioid Addiction," an agreement that was ratified by the National Governors Association in July. 

The agreement calls for a “coordinated approach between states to combat the opioid epidemic, including collaboration with law enforcement to end opioid trafficking,” according to the Boston Herald

The extent of New England's opiate abuse problem has made it a key topic of discussion. “[Opioids have] been a regular talking point between New England governors for the last four years,” said Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy. 

Like many American states, Canada has also seen a sharp rise in opiate overdoses, particularly of fentanyl. “This is the worst drug I’ve seen in my career,” said Staff Sgt. Martin Schiavetta, the head of the Calgary police drug unit. “This is absolutely the worst drug I’ve ever seen because of how toxic it is. The equivalent of two grains of sand will kill you, quickly.”

In British Columbia, there has been a ten-fold increase in fentanyl-related overdoses since 2012. In response, there has been movement across Canada to increase access to lifesaving treatments and to identify long-term treatment plans that work.

In May, Ontario and Canada's capital city, Ottawa, joined British Columbia and Alberta in offering free naloxone over the counter without a prescription. While the move was heralded, it was also seen as just one of many policy changes needed to stem the opiate crisis. “I don’t want anyone to think that extending naloxone coverage is the magic wand that’s going to obliterate the opioid crisis,” Michael Parkinson, a community engagement coordinator told the Globe and Mail. “It’s just one key tool in the toolbox.”

The Canadian federal government is even considering an amendment that would allow prescription heroin to be legalized for use in medication-assisted treatment plans. “A significant body of scientific evidence supports the medical use of diacetylmorphine, also known as pharmaceutical-grade heroin, for the treatment of chronic relapsing opioid dependence,” Health Canada, the country’s federal health agency, said in a statement in May. 

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Kelly Burch writes about addiction and mental health issues, particularly as they affect families. Follow her on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn.

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