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Nurses Association Calls for Decriminalization of Simple Possession

By Adam Riley Oct 7, 2022 | 7:00 PM

The Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario is calling upon mayoral candidates in 21 cities across the province, including Thunder Bay, for the upcoming October 24th municipal election to support decriminalization of simple drug possession.

RNAO Chief Executive Officer Dr. Doris Grinspun states substance use a public health matter, not a criminal problem. “Every life lost to an accidental overdose could’ve been prevented if appropriate supports and measures were readily available and easily accessible to individuals when they need it.”

The campaign cites 2021 data from Public Health Ontario which states an average of eight people per day died from an opioid-related overdose across the province, which amounts to an 85 percent increase from pre-pandemic levels.

The data shows in the region covered by the Thunder Bay District Health Unit there were 122 opioid related deaths in a population of 154,746, that puts the rate per 100,000 people at 78.8, with a majority of those deaths, 82, being male.

Meanwhile in the Northwestern Health Unit catchment region, which has a population of 81,967. The rate per 100,000 was 37.8 or 31 cases. Once again a majority of the deaths were male, 22.

Those numbers put Northwestern Ontario as a whole in the 80 to 100 percentile.

In a release the RNAO states “in addition to more supervised consumption sites and an expansion of safer supply programs and initiatives, decriminalizing simple drug possession is a key to minimizing the risk of overdose and addressing other community harms associated with unsupervised drug use.”

A spokesperson for the RNAO says they are targeting larger centres where this issue has had traction, however in smaller communities there is an option on their website for local nurses to pick up the campaign.




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