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Canadian Nurses Association calls on governments and stakeholders to stem the national opioid crisis

Ottawa, October 3, 2017 — Canadian Nurses Association (CNA) president Barb Shellian issued the following statement concerning the ongoing national opioid crisis that is adversely affecting the lives of thousands of Canadians:

“In advance of the first ministers meeting taking place today in Ottawa, CNA is calling on the federal government to lead efforts for a more coordinated approach between all levels of government and to also work with stakeholder groups to take concrete steps to stem the national opioid crisis. Equitable access to health and social services is at the heart of this public health epidemic.

“Despite the devastating nature of this continued national public health crisis, it is an opportunity for Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor to show courage by taking concrete actions to save lives. All governments must work together to implement a comprehensive approach to addressing the opioid crisis including harm reduction and better strategies for prevention and treatment.

“Governments must remove procedural barriers to allow nurses to do their necessary lifesaving work in many different settings. Overdose prevention sites, which are part of a comprehensive harm reduction strategy, work in tandem with other services including supervised consumption sites and prevention and treatment services. Out of clear necessity, teams of harm reduction workers are already providing an essential service at the numerous sites in B.C., where they are supported by a ministerial order. In Ontario, sites in Toronto and Ottawa have seen thousands of visits. These volunteer-run sites are saving lives by intervening in multiple overdoses. 

“CNA has been advocating strongly for actions to resolve this crisis and we are committed to finding solutions. We are alarmed at the growing scale and steady progress of the crisis, which we expect will continue to worsen. As the cold weather comes, the risk of overdose increases. People move indoors and use drugs alone, without peers or harm reduction workers such as nurses, who have the required skills and experience to help in emergency situations. CNA has members in every province and territory who are affected by this crisis. The nurses have a tremendous amount of knowledge, skill and compassion to contribute to tackling this epidemic. As an organization based in Ottawa, we are firsthand witnesses to the impact on communities and complex regional dynamics that are posing barriers to harm reduction.”

Background

Through CNA’s work at the federal level, here are our recommendations:

  • Remove procedural barriers to opening supervised consumption sites (SCSs) across Canada. Amendments were proposed via our submission [PDF, 160.5 KB] to the Senate standing committee on legal and constitutional affairs on Bill C-37, An Act to Amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act and to Make Related Amendments to Other Acts.
  • Amend Bill C-37 to include a provision that would allow provincial or territorial ministers to grant temporary exemptions to SCSs.
  • Support and encourage provincial and territorial counterparts to adopt a system of electronic health records that can communicate across jurisdictions and link compatibly with the Canadian Institute for Health Information’s National Prescription Drug Utilization Information System (NPDUIS), which captures data on dispensed prescription drugs.
  • Fund development of educational resources for health-care practitioners — with a primary target audience of prescribers and dispensers — that provide current, evidence-based information, developed in consultation with providers to support their practice.

CNA has already disseminated educational resources related to opioid use for provincial and territorial nursing associations and colleges in collaboration with the Canadian Association of Schools of Nursing:

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The Canadian Nurses Association is the national professional voice representing over 139,000 registered nurses and nurse practitioners in Canada. CNA advances the practice and profession of nursing to improve health outcomes and strengthen Canada’s publicly funded, not-for-profit health system.

For more information, please contact:
Kevin Ménard
Communications Advisor
Canadian Nurses Association
Cell: 613-266-8230
E-mail: kmenard@cna-aiic.ca