Northern Ontario mayors plead for help from province in tacking rising opioid crisis
SAULT STE. MARIE -- Mayors from the five largest cities in Northern Ontario are calling on the provincial government to help them address key infrastructure needs in tackling mental health and addictions in the north.
During the Northern Ontario Large Urban Mayors (NOLUM) conference - which consists of the mayors of Sault Ste. Marie, North Bay, Timmins, Sudbury and Thunder Bay - multiple needs were highlighted in the immediate short-term.
"Collectively, this government, the government before it, the government before that, the infrastructure that those governments have developed, is not significant enough to meet the magnitude of the problem," said Christian Provenzano, Mayor of Sault Ste. Marie. "The funding for those supports has been marginally increased and certainly not proportionate to the problem."
The mayors will also be writing a letter to the province, calling for immediate help in addressing those gaps. Sudbury Mayor Brian Bigger said that includes asking for immediate, short-term funding.
"In many cases, the responses required for mental wellness, with the addictions and drug challenges is funding," said Bigger.
Some of the mayors on the call also highlighted how the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed further gaps that were otherwise unseen in years prior.
In North Bay, for example, Mayor Al McDonald said there's not enough beds in its shelters to accommodate those who need them.
"Maybe we could have 50 people in those two shelters, but now with COVID and the six-foot distancing, we're down to about 25," he said.
McDonald, who hosted the conference, said while the need for short-term funding is there, all the mayors also understand the need for a long-term strategy.