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Northern Mayors tackle opioid crisis

The opioid crisis was front and center during a Northern Mayors roundtable in Prince George on Tuesday (Jan 21) that included Premier John Horgan.

Quesnel Mayor Bob Simpson says the message from him, on behalf of Council, was that local government and Northern Health needed to be at the table and in the driver’s seat when new resources are being deployed.

He also mentioned that those resources also needed to be put into the community with the whole community in mind…

“So more needle distribution has to take into account needle pickup, more resources for people with mental health and addictions issues that may attract more individuals into our community with addiction issues means we need more resources for policing and enforcement, it’s one of the four pillars of approaching this problem.”

Simpson says he has noticed a shift in perspective in trying to help people who are dealing with some serious issues, but at the same time take public safety into account…

“Public safety context, safe public spaces for everybody and resources for seniors and families that are vulnerable, not just resources for street entrenched individuals who are struggling with their addictions.”

Housing, another key element in helping those with addictions, was also on the agenda.

Simpson noted that Quesnel has a good story to tell there as a lot of resources have recently come into the community, although he did express some concerns about who was running some of these facilities…

“We’ve been calling for a long time for accreditation of the not-for-profit societies that run these homeless shelters and 24-7 supportive housing facilities, because they need to be more professional in how they deal with local governments and neighbours and others.”

Simpson says the province was very interested in what Quesnel was doing with its maintenance bylaw and nuisance bylaw.

He says they see it as a tool to also help them as Simpson says municipalities can act faster to deal with problem properties and problem behaviors than currently can be done under the criminal code.

The Mayors of Fort St. James, Vanderhoof, and Mackenzie were also at the meeting, the areas that surround Prince George which acts as their main service hub.

The Minister of Mental Health and Addictions and the Minister of Housing and Citizen Services were also part of the day long meeting.

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