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Canadian Nurses Association calls on Ontario to take action on cannabis public education campaign and opioid crisis

Ottawa, February 13, 2018 — As Ontario MPPs are set to return to the legislature and debate the next provincial budget, the Canadian Nurses Association (CNA) is advocating for two key actions related to the legalization of cannabis and the ongoing opioid crisis. First, CNA urges the creation of cannabis education resources for the public and nurses. Second, as the opioid crisis continues to escalate, CNA urges the expansion of nurses’ role in harm reduction, including naloxone programs.

CNA recommends investing $48 million in a public education campaign to reduce the potential harms of non-medical cannabis use. Such a campaign should include messages about driving under the influence, limiting consumption among youth, storing cannabis safely, and understanding product potency and methods of use. Nurses should be involved in the design and delivery of such a campaign because they have an important role in public education.

CNA further recommends that the Ontario government invest $600,000 to increase Ontario nurses’ level of cannabis knowledge. CNA recently conducted a survey of Ontario nurses [PDF, 757.2 KB] and found only about half of respondents said they had adequate knowledge about the risks and harms of cannabis use. These findings are largely attributable to the fact that legalized cannabis is a new development and many nurses may be uncomfortable in answering questions from their patients. Nurses are key sources of information and, as a recent Nanos survey [PDF, 811.8 KB] revealed, nine in 10 Ontarians support nurses as leaders of public health knowledge about cannabis.

“As we move closer to the legalization of cannabis, it is of the utmost importance to ensure nurses are well prepared to respond to the related health questions their patients will ask,” CNA CEO Mike Villeneuve said. “Nurses are highly trusted by the public and are often the first or only point of contact within the health system, and this is why we must invest in professional development and resources for nurses in Ontario.”

CNA’s next recommendation concerns the opioid crisis. To improve harm reduction services and save lives, CNA recommends that a portion of $222 million that was previously announced to fight the opioid crisis be used to increase nurses’ role in harm reduction services and include them in naloxone programs. Nurses are uniquely positioned to work in supervised consumption sites and other harm reduction services to counsel and provide essential health services to people who use substances. Enhancing nurses’ role in addressing this crisis can prevent unnecessary overdoses and deaths and help prevent emergency department admissions. Nurses can support people who use substances and connect them to other essential services such as income assistance, housing and treatment.

“Supervised injection sites are critical health and social services to vulnerable populations in dire need of support,” said Villeneuve. “Nurses can make tremendous contributions to support these populations as an integral part of the team providing harm reduction services in Ontario.”

CNA is also pleased to support recommendations by the Canadian Indigenous Nurses Association (CINA) to improve Indigenous health outcomes in Ontario. CINA recommends that the Ontario government allocate $4.5 million for a pilot project that will lead to the creation of a mobile health-care simulation laboratory. Such a lab would allow Indigenous nurses in the province’s remote communities to access better educational services.

“Indigenous nurses need better access to education resources in remote communities,” said Marilee A. Nowgesic, CINA’s executive director. “As the health needs keep growing in these communities, the Ontario government needs to look at innovative solutions to bring care and training closer to home and communities. New technologies and training models have the potential to be game changers to improve the health of Indigenous Peoples.”

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Background

On January 17, CNA and CINA appeared in front of the Ontario finance committee to provide recommendations [PDF, 213 KB] ahead of the next provincial budget.

Watch CNA’s Karey Shuhendler in her interview with Business of Cannabis on the need for public education on cannabis.

The Canadian Nurses Association is the national and global professional voice for Canadian nursing, 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
Lead, Communications
Canadian Nurses Association
Cell: 613-266-8230
E-mail: kmenard@cna-aiic.ca