Mayor Bill Given is one of the newest members on a provincial panel combating the opioid crisis. He says working with the Government of Alberta Health Minister’s Opioid Emergency Response Commission is a natural extension of the work he’s done locally. He’s hoping to bring the “municipal perspective to the table.”
“Our first responders, our public housing workers, our social service organizations and partners and our parks workers even are interacting with the population this is affecting in a very tangible way.”
Given launched the Mayor’s Opioid Task Force locally in December. Its goal is to coordinate the efforts of other non-profits and groups that are already working in support roles in the community in an attempt to streamline their efforts.
The province has also been working to address the opioid crisis collectively. The province says the Minister’s commission has worked to establish treatment spaces, safe consumption sites and awareness programs.
It was announced Tuesday the province will be extending the commissions term for another 18 months and also adding more members to the panel. Along with Given, new members will also include Dr. Nathaniel Day, medical lead of Alberta Health Services rural opioid dependency program in central Alberta, and Peter MacKinnon, who works with AHS.
Given has had ongoing conversations with Associate Minister of Health Brandy Payne and Minister Sarah Hoffman on previous visits to Grande Prairie. He says he believes that may have played a role in his appointment but he believes it stems from a combination of factors.
“Some of those conversations I’ve been able to have with government and with ministers over the last year. Some of the work we’ve been doing here in Grande Prairie. And the fact that the city of Grande Prairie was very specific when we asked to establish this kind of relationship.”
At the most recent Alberta Urban Municipalities Association meeting, Given says the City of Grande Prairie put forward a resolution that asked the province to work more closely with municipalities. It passed, and he thinks that also may have put him on the provincial radar.
Given is the northern most representative on the panel and the only elected official. He will begin the on-boarding process next week and will attend monthly meetings with the commission.
Three people in Grande Prairie have died in the first three months of 2018 due to fentanyl overdoses. Alberta Health’s latest report showed a total of eight deaths in the North Zone and a total of 158 around the province between January and March.