Opioid emergency response to be guided by new commission

Above: Associate Minister Brandy Payne unveils Alberta’s opioid plan

by Morinville News Staff

The province says it has established a dedicated emergency commission to help ramp up Alberta’s ability to respond to the opioid crisis.

The Minister’s Opioid Emergency Response Commission, created with a new regulation under the Public Health Act, has the mandate to implement urgent, coordinated actions to address the opioid public health crisis.

“Responding to the rising toll of opioid-related deaths in Alberta is a top priority and must continue to be addressed with urgency,” said Brandy Payne, Associate Minister of Health, in a release Wednesday. “The new Minister’s Opioid Emergency Response Commission will guide the province’s continuing work and ensure each action we take will reduce the harms to opioid users, their families, their communities and first responders.”

The new commission will accelerate Alberta’s ability to increase treatment, including providing more access to opioid replacement therapy. One of the first priorities will be expanding public coverage of drugs; including Suboxone and methadone, prescribed through opioid replacement therapy.

Dr. Elaine Hyshka, Scientific Director of the Royal Alexandra Hospital’s Inner City Health and Wellness Program, and Dr. Karen Grimsrud, Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health will co-chair the commission.

“Our province is facing a historically unprecedented overdose epidemic,” Hyshka said. “Addressing this crisis will take solutions grounded in evidence, and informed by frontline service providers, and people and families directly affected by substance use. Our commission includes these perspectives and is committed to urgent action that will reduce suffering and save lives. Today’s announcement is a positive step forward, but the path ahead will be challenging and will require measures that have never been taken before in Alberta.”

Grimsrud said Alberta has already taken many actions to address the opioid crisis.

“The diverse membership and expertise of the new commission will allow us to build and strengthen the actions already in place to prevent drug overdoses and advise on additional steps that can be taken,” she said. “Our aggressive and coordinated approach will continue to focus on getting Albertans who use substances the help they need.”

The commission also includes representation from a diverse group affected by the opioid crisis, including law enforcement, Indigenous communities, harm-reduction program experts and parent advocates.

The commission will make recommendations and develop a proposed budget on $30 million in new provincial money dedicated to the opioid crisis.

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