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GUEST OPINION: P.E.I. has an opioid crisis

Fentanyl pills are shown in an undated police handout photo.
Fentanyl pills are shown in an undated police handout photo. - Handout

Lloyd C. McKenna
Guest opinion

The Province of P.E.I. is engaged in a life-and-death battle against the importation, use and consequence of various opiates available to people on the Island.

The 2016 census states there are 59,475 dwellings on the Island and the 2017 CMHC report states there are 6,020 apartments. I suggest that a minimum of 25 per cent of these residents have experienced someone in their family or extended family or a neighbour who is or has been addicted to drugs. It is time for the provincial government to drop the charade of dealing with this crisis and come forward with a legitimate plan.

At this point we will hear that the government is helpless to do anything unless they do a study first to assess the depth of the crisis. Balderdash! I suggest there is sufficient evidence that has accumulated over the last 25 years for the government to make a decision. The data available will come from the courts, local and RCMP police intelligence, hospital reports and last, but not least, the accumulated data of the Mount Herbert treatment facility.

The Mt. Herbert facility has made at least a token, but not long term, benefit to the unfortunates who suffer from this malise. Some ministers, deputy ministers and assorted others in government will blanch at this suggestion because they will first of all complain "we don't have the money" and this may disrupt their long-range planning for other vital projects as seen in their minds.

I offer that some of these folks look down their noses at drug dependent addicts but will readily find funding for other medical services they see as more important. When was the last time you heard of a person being refused full medical treatment for a stroke or COVID-19? Why are addicts then treated with such disdain? Because they are seen as having created their own problem, but a person driving under the influence of alcohol is given medical treatment without questions.

Most people who have a drug dependent family member are ashamed to speak up for fear of criticism. Why should they be ashamed? This is a medical problem and we must act on it. In the past we have shunned young people for experiencing social problems and in many cases they were sent to visit a relative who lives in another province until the situation was resolved. I truthfully believe we are past that.

Maybe it is time for Islanders to call the premier's office and say bluntly: "Do not continue ignoring this opioid crisis." It has to stop. No one will blame or condemn you for asking for help for your sick relative. Premier King's office number is 902-368-4400 where you can leave a polite message to the person answering the phone. He will appreciate the calls. If you do not call, do not blame the government for doing nothing. This is a community problem and together we can solve it.

Lloyd C. McKenna is retired from the provincial government and lives in Charlottetown.

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