I must say, I've been fairly impressed with the changes made by our new Liberal government and Minister of Health, Jane Philpott. While the reaction time has been lagging, some significant steps have been taken in order to help protect the health and lives of Canadians who use drugs. While we aren't even halfway through 2016, let's take a look at what's changed so far this year!
Compared to her predecessor, our new Minister is all about evidence-based approaches and reducing harm. For starters, who exactly is she?
Jane Philpott is a Family Physician, and previously held the position of Chief of the Department of Family Medicine at a hospital in Markham, Ontario. Philpott studied medicine at Western Univeristy, completed her residency at the University of Ottawa, and more recently went on the earn her Master's of Public Health at the University of Toronto. She has also spent time in West Africa practicing medicine, and developing training programs for the local healthcare workers.
Since assuming office in November of 2015, Philpott and the Liberal government have made numerous changes that will undoubtedly leave a positive impact on people who use drugs in Canada.
Approval of the Dr. Peter Centre's as Canada's 2nd Safe Injection Site
Starting off the year with a bang, on January 15, 2016, Health Canada broke the exciting news:
"Health Canada has informed Vancouver's Dr. Peter Centre, a world-renowned HIV/AIDS treatment and support facility, that its application to operate a supervised consumption site has been approved.
Plan to Legalize Marijuana in Spring 2017
Conveniently announced on April 20, 2016 at UNGASS, Jane Philpott made the following statement:
"We will introduce legislation in Spring 2017 that ensures we keep marijuana out of the hands of children and profits out of the hands of criminals. While this plan challenges the status quo in many countries, we are convinced it is the best way to protect our youth while enhancing public safety. Canada will continue to modernize our approach to drug policy. Building on our successes, such as Insite, our work will embrace upstream prevention, compassionate treatment, and harm reduction. We will work with law enforcement partners to encourage appropriate and proportionate criminal justice measures. We know it is impossible to arrest our way out of this problem." - Health Canada
Since the beginning of 2016, there have been several different changes regarding Naloxone. First, Naloxone's Federal Prescription Status was changed from Prescription to Over-The-Counter; a fantastic move, but not quite enough. More recently, the Federal Government announced that Naloxone will be covered through the NHIB for Aboriginals. Lastly, British Columbia, Alberta, and Ontario have started to offer Naloxone free of charge to anyone who requests it at pharmacies across the provinces.
"Ontario Health Minister Eric Hoskins announced that his province – the country’s largest per capita consumer of prescription opioids – would join B.C. and Alberta in dispensing free naloxone to anyone through community pharmacies, no prescription needed. The federal government, meanwhile, added naloxone to the list of drugs covered under the Non-Insured Health Benefits, the national pharmaceutical program for aboriginals, a group that has faced disproportionate numbers of opioid-related deaths in some regions." - The Globe And Mail
Proposal of Amendment to Allow Diacetylmorphine (pharmacuetical-grade Heroin) Access Via 'SAP'
In another great step forward, Health Canada has announced it is proposing a regulatory change to allow Canadians access to Diacetylmorphine (pharmaceutical-grade Heroin) in exceptional circumstances.
"The proposed regulatory change would move diacetylmorphine to the Narcotics Control Regulations, allowing applications to be considered under the SAP (Special Access Program) when a doctor considers it medically necessary. While the proposed amendment would enable the careful consideration by the SAP of applications for diacetylmorphine in exceptional cases, all the other stringent controls in the Narcotics Control Regulations will continue to apply." - Health Canada
All of these changes have been sorely needed, along with many more, for quite some time now. However, the changes made in the first 5 months of 2016 give some hope that things are headed in the right (evidence-based) direction. I can only hope that the remainder of the year continues to bring more positive, impactful changes when it comes to our drug policies and the lives of people who use drugs in Canada.
By K. Lanktree
- Freelance Writer -
- Blog Mistress -
- Former IV Drug User -
- Methadone Patient -
- Lover of all things Harm Reduction -
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