Mental health and addiction crisis

Awhile back SaultOnline ran an opinion piece titled: Leaked document confirms opioid crisis not a priority for city.  The ‘leaked document’ was a power point presentation developed by city staff for a meeting with our MPP, Ross Romano.  The meeting was specifically intended to review and discuss municipal infrastructure applications and the presentation was structured accordingly.  Notwithstanding the focus and specific intention of the meeting, we did take the opportunity to raise and discuss community concerns and the first item on that list was the opioid epidemic.

The opinion piece got me thinking about discussions and meetings that I have had with local advocacy groups SOYA (Saving Our Young Adults), AMHA (Addiction and Mental Health Advocates) and CHAAT (Citizens Helping Addicts and Alcoholics get Treatment). These conversations and meetings were largely about what the city has done or is doing to advocate for more mental health and addiction support in our community.  I want to recognize and thank each of these groups, all of which are comprised of volunteers in our community who demonstrate on a daily basis the best of us. The care that these volunteers demonstrate for each other, those struggling, and our community is a tremendous example of compassion and leadership. I am grateful for it.

The last time I spoke with Donna DeSimone from AMHA she made an important point: it isn’t enough to do something, people must know you are doing it. People must know what the City is doing to address the addiction and mental health crisis in our community, so that people that are struggling and affected know that it is a priority, that they are important and that their City cares.  Donna’s point made me think of a questionnaire that the City Councillors and I received from CHAAT asking, among other things, what we were doing to advocate for and improve access to treatment in our community.

In the context of the advocacy of SOYA, AMHA and CHAAT and the advice I have received from representatives of those groups, we created an outline of some of our efforts.  This list is not exhaustive and it does not represent work the City has supported or encouraged through the District of Sault Ste. Marie Social Service Administration Board (DSSAB). The DSSAB has done a lot of valuable work and I commend Councillor Dufour and the Board along with CAO Nadeau and the staff team for their impressive efforts.

Emails, meetings and telephone calls are surely missed but this outline should give people a good sense of the work and advocacy the City has undertaken.  More than that, I hope it gives people the sense that we know many people are struggling with substance use.  We know that many people are having a difficult time accessing care and treatment.  We know that as a community we are losing people, and that families and friends are losing loved ones.

I assure our community that City Council will continue to advocate for more treatment and care capacity within our community and that we will continue to work with front line social service and care providers to do what we can to get people the care and support that they deserve.