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Foothills MP leads opioid crisis working group

John Barlow
John Barlow

Foothills MP John Barlow and Conservative colleague Todd Doherty are leading an attempt to solve the opioid crisis.

Barlow and Doherty are co-chairmen of a Conservative opioid crisis working group.

“Our aim is to look at the crisis holistically and with compassion,” Barlow said. “We are exploring policies to save lives and break the cycle of misery and personal tragedy.”

Barlow said in a news release Friday opioid addiction is a serious problem in southern Alberta.

The situation has surpassed a crisis level due in large part to the stress and unemployment brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.

A Canadian Mental Health Association study showed the impact the pandemic is having on the mental health of Canadians  with opioid abuse and overdose deaths increasing as a consequence.

About 40 per cent of Canadians said their mental health has deteriorated since the beginning of the pandemic.

In addition, 10 per cent said they have had suicidal thoughts and 17 per cent said they have increased substance use as a means to cope.

In Alberta specifically, opioid overdose deaths and suicides tripled from January to July last year.

“This is an issue we must take seriously,” Barlow said. “We are gathering data, insight and proposals on what needs to be done to address mental health and addictions.”

“We need to know what resources are available and where the gaps exist within the current system.”

Barlow said prevention, enforcement, harm reduction, intervention and recovery play pivotal roles in finding a solution.

“We must not turn our backs to any idea just because it does not fit our political narrative or goes against pre-conceived notions,” Barlow said. “Only by working together will we overcome the stigma associated with substance use and addiction.”

The House of Commons unanimously passed a motion in December to establish the 9-8-8 suicide hotline in Canada, an initiative spearheaded by Doherty.

When the committee studied the mental health impacts of the COVID pandemic, Barlow invited two Foothills business owners to  share how COVID has impacted their mental health from a business owner’s perspective.

“It was a sobering presentation as they outlined the depression and anxiety they face, not only for themselves, but also the pressure of supporting their employees and their families,” Barlow said.

The committee over the past weeks has heard first-hand the effects the crisis has had on communities, colleagues, families, friends and neighbours.

“Working together the hope is to build a framework to get the dealers off the streets and offer addicts a tangible pathway to successful recovery,” Barlow said. 

If you need help call the Canada Suicide Prevention Service at 1-833-456-4566 text 45645 from 2 p.m. to midnight or visit crisisservicescanada.ca

The Kids Help Phone is 1-800-668-6868, and live chat counselling is available at www.kidshelpphone.ca.

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