C-K council commits $300K-plus to address drug strategy

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By Pam Wright
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Nearly five years in the making, Chatham-Kent council finally approved a new community-wide drug strategy.

Council recently gave a unanimous thumbs up to the policy that includes hiring a full-time co-ordinator for two-years at a cost of $150,000 per annum.

Council reached its decision following a presentation from Guelph-based Collective Results Inc., a third-party consulting firm hired to probe the issue and make recommendations. The company worked in close collaboration with CK Public Health and leaned heavily on those with lived experiences.

Based on four “pillars” that include prevention, treatment and recovery, harm reduction and community inclusion and safety, the drug strategy addresses across-the-spectrum substance use, including that of opioids.

Like most Ontario communities, opioid poisonings continue to plague Chatham-Kent. According to Reach Out Chatham-Kent (R.O.C.K.) Missions executive director Renee Geniole, 65 people died in C-K in 2023 from drug poisonings and six so far in 2024. Ninety per cent of those were related to fentanyl, Geniole said in a deputation to council.

Council also heard from Collective Results that local drug prevention and harm reduction services are not reaching certain populations, and the stigma around substance use continues to be a barrier to those seeking help.

Chatham Coun. Marjorie Crew, a long-time drug-prevention and harm-reduction advocate, said the new strategy was a “long time coming.

“We cannot do this work without a strategy and a plan to move forward,” Crew emphasized.

Chatham Coun. Brock McGregor, chair of the CK Public Health board, pointed out that the C-K Community Safety and Well-Being committee has deemed the drug strategy a priority.

“I think it’s a great development,” McGregor said of the plan, but added he didn’t think two years would be long enough to get it off the ground.

“I hope soon we will see this as a recommendation in our budget process to fund continually because I don’t see the need changing,” McGregor said.

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