SAULT STE. MARIE -- The mayor of Sault Ste Marie is calling on the province to step up with funding to help the city address overdose deaths, particularly those tied to opioids.

“We don’t have some of the very basic infrastructure you need to deal with addiction issues, never mind addiction issues in an acute crisis like the opioid epidemic,” Christian Provenzano said Tuesday.

“We know what’s happening and we want to help and we want to be there for you. The reality is the municipality has very few resources to deal with health issues.”

Provenzano said the ongoing drug overdose problem in Sault Ste Marie has killed far more people locally than COVID-19.

One local initiative is aiming to address healthcare shortfalls, including overdoses. The 'Wellness Bus' will operate as a mobile clinic, and it will be staffed by healthcare professionals.

“What they’ll be able to do is some initial assessment and some counselling, offering people services, but also ensuring that people don’t end up in the emergency department all the time,” said Erik Landriault, director of the Algoma Ontario Health Team, one of the agencies behind the Wellness Bus.

Provenzano said the Wellness Bus is an example of what can be done with existing resources. However, he said only the provincial government has money to fully address the opioid issue.