The Canadian Mental Health Association is fighting to have opioid use addressed as a health issue, not a criminal one.
According to a national policy paper released this past week, decriminalizing opiates is essential to fighting the crisis.
National Director of Research and Public Policy for the CMHA Fardous Hosseiny is based out of Toronto.
He said definitively, decriminalization should be , and is, an evidence based process.
“I think the evidence shows we need to take bold action,” he said. “We know the war on drugs hasn’t worked. Criminalization really stigmatizes people and really creates barriers for people accessing treatment and really creates problems accessing treatment when they really need it.
Hosseiny notes while the federal government has made small steps towards remedying this issue, much more needs to be done.
And one of things is look at the action taken in Portugal towards decriminalization.
Hosseiny acknowledges while some of the parts of the Portuguese plan might be incompatible with the system here in Canada, he notes it’s a good place to start and thoroughly examine the benefits of decriminalization to make a “Made in Canada” approach to this issue.
“What we saw in Portugal was when they decriminalized psychoactive substances for personal use, they saw a 60% reduction in the number of people being arrested for drug related offences,” he said.
“At the same time, they saw a 60% increase in people accessing treatment.”