Connect with us
[bsa_pro_ad_space id=12]

Health

Commons committee urges feds to consider decriminalizing simple drug possession

Published

OTTAWA — The House of Commons health committee is urging the federal government to look at Portugal’s decriminalization of simple possession of illicit drugs and examine how the idea could be “positively applied in Canada.”

The committee made the recommendation, among others, in report produced after committee members travelled across Canada to witness the impacts of methamphetamine use and its rapid increase in some communities. 

Many witnesses who appeared before the committee called for the federal government to work with provinces, territories, municipalities, Indigenous communities and law-enforcement agencies to decriminalize simple possession of small quantities of illicit substances, the report says.

It also says the committee heard during its informal meetings across the country that even some health-care providers have negative attitudes toward people with substance-use problems.

The report details testimony from health experts who told the committee that decriminalizing simple possession is necessary because problematic substance use and addiction is a health problem for users and criminalization prevents them from seeking help.

“Witnesses recommended that the federal government examine the implementation of the Portuguese model of decriminalization of the possession of illicit substances, which included a scaling-up of treatment programs and the creation of diversion programs for offenders who commit crimes related to their substance-use disorders,” the report says.

The federal Liberals have faced mounting pressure from health advocates and even members of their own caucus to pursue decriminalization of simple possession.

Liberal MP Nathaniel Erskine-Smith said he is planning to introduce a private member’s bill built on the idea that Canada should treat drug use as a health issue and not as a crime. It will include removing penalties for simple possession of any drug from the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.

The bill is vanishingly unlikely to get anywhere before the fall election, but Erskine-Smith said he will look to re-introduce the bill in a new Parliament should he be re-elected. He said other jurisdictions have found that removing criminal sanctions for drug possession means more people seek treatment.

“I think it is incumbent on me and like-minded members of Parliament to continue to raise the issue and continue to draw attention to the evidence if it means saving lives,” he said.

The Commons health committee is also recommending a public-awareness campaign to provide “credible and reliable information” about the potential harms of methamphetamine use and the risks posed by the toxicity of the illegal supply.

Its report details how the rise of meth across the country highlights the complexity of addressing problematic substance use and addiction in Canada, with witnesses explaining its use is caused by a set of “interwoven factors” including harmful childhood experiences, poor mental health, poverty and homelessness.

The committee heard that methamphetamine can be particularly destructive for some people because it’s highly addictive and can bring on psychosis, the report said, and many people who use the drug don’t know the havoc it can cause.

The Conservatives on the health committee issued a dissenting report saying that several other things need to be done before decriminalization, pointing out a number of differences between Canada and Portugal.

There are 170 recovery facilities for 11 million people in Portugal. The country offers mental-health supports and mandatory education in schools and for the public regarding the harms of drugs, the Conservatives say, and it is unrealistic to assume Canada could achieve the same results without implementing several of those mandatory elements.

“Canada does not have the recovery capacity available currently,” the dissenting report said. “We also do not have enough available and affordable mental-health supports, mandatory education regarding harms, or a correctional system that could mimic Portugal’s.”

In the summer of 2017, Jane Philpott and Jody Wilson-Raybould — then the Liberal ministers of health and justice —travelled to Portugal to learn more about the country’s approach to drugs.

Portugal can teach Canada a “great deal” about how taking a public-health approach to drug policy helps the justice system work better, Wilson-Raybould said in a statement at the time.

So far, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has refused to pursue decriminalization.

Last April, at a convention in Halifax, the Liberal rank and file passed a non-binding resolution on decriminalizing simple possession and consumption of all illicit drugs; Trudeau immediately shot the idea down.

“On that particular issue, as I’ve said, it’s not part of our plans,” he said.

—Follow @kkirkup on Twitter

Kristy Kirkup, The Canadian Press

Health

Fear mounting that changes to drug pricing in Canada could stifle innovation

Published

on

prescription drugs

OTTAWA — Some Canadian patients and groups that advocate on their behalf are sounding the alarm about the federal government’s recent changes to the way it regulates the cost of patented medicines.

Toronto lawyer and longtime Liberal supporter Chris MacLeod, who lives with cystic fibrosis, said Thursday that it pains him to speak out against the government but he fears lives could be on the line as a result of what he calls a “wholly irresponsible” approach.

“It will be delayed access at best; denial or no access at worst,” MacLeod said.

Health Canada recently finalized its long-awaited changes to the process of establishing drug prices, which include providing the Patented Medicines Prices Review Board with the market price of medicines rather than an inflated list price.

The department says the board — first created 30 years ago to ensure companies don’t use monopolies to charge excessive costs — can now consider whether the drug price actually reflects the value it has for patients.

Earlier this month, board chair Dr. Mitchell Levine also said the body now has the tools and information it needs to meaningfully protect Canadian consumers from excessive prices.

Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor issued a similar statement Thursday, noting the objective of the changes, which have taken three years to implement, was to ultimately lower prices while making sure Canadians get access to the medicines they need.

The government has billed the changes as an effort to establish the groundwork for a national pharmacare program.

MacLeod, however, fears the changes will ultimately drive the list prices down to the point where drug companies will not seek to bring new, game-changing medicines to Canada.

The Canadian Organization for Rare Disorders said it shares MacLeod’s concern, adding that while everyone wants to have access to medications at affordable prices, it risks making new therapies less available.

In a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau sent in April prior to the finalization of the regulations, the organization co-signed a letter urging the government to change its course.

“We all want to have access to medicines at affordable prices,” the letter said. “However, these proposed changes by the PMPRB will mean that many new therapies will not be available in Canada.”

President and CEO Dr. Durhane Wong-Rieger said the organization is worried about the signal the decision sends in terms of Canada’s willingness to provide competitive pricing for drugs.

“If we end up being a country that is priced so very low that companies are afraid it is going to impact their ability to actually market elsewhere, they won’t come to us first,” Wong-Rieger said.

—Follow @kkirkup on Twitter

Kristy Kirkup, The Canadian Press

Continue Reading

Community

Edmonton community members explore using the Emergency Room as an entry point to transitional housing

Published

on

Is there a better way than simply releasing a person experiencing homelessness from the hospital back onto the street? It creates an endless cycle of emergency room visits and escalating costs, not to mention the challenges the patients face in having a successful recovery.

As we continue to look for solutions to homelessness in our city, a group of community members from different fields and backgrounds met recently to brainstorm and discuss alternatives to the practice of releasing patients into a state of homelessness.

That’s a long way of saying that if someone experiencing homelessness comes to an emergency room with a need for medical aid, the only alternative once treated is to release the patient back onto the street.  The chances of recovery are greatly diminished, while the probability of return visits increases.  The costs are severe, both to the person experiencing homelessness and to our ever-more expensive health care system.

Spearheading the initiative is Dr. Louis Hugo Francescutti, a veteran emergency room physician at the Royal Alexandra Hospital and a Professor at the School of Public Health at the University of Alberta.

Watch this short video to hear from some of those involved and to better understand the concept and learn why there is a growing groundswell of support for this idea.

 

There are many ways that people can get involved with this initiative.  It’s common sense that housing and health are interconnected. Finding solutions to chronic homelessness and easing pressure on our health care system is something we can all get behind.

Please contact Dr. Louis Hugo Francescutti directly to learn more about the project and how you can help:

Phone 780.932-7187

lfrances@ualberta.ca

 

Continue Reading

august, 2019

tue06augAll Daysun29sepHot Mess - Erin Boake featured at Red Deer Museum and Art Gallery(All Day)

sat24augAll Daysun25Fort Normandeau Days(All Day) Fort Normandeau, 28054 Range Road 382

sat24aug10:00 am12:00 pmRed Deer River Naturalists Bird Focus Group Walk10:00 am - 12:00 pm MST Three Mile Bend Recreation Area

Trending

X