Mr. Chair, there is no doubt that Canada is currently in the midst of an unprecedented national public health crisis. Since the beginning of 2016, more than 8,000 Canadians have lost their lives as a result of opioid overdose. This is nothing short of tragic. Every community in Canada has been affected by it, from small towns to big cities. Many lives have been lost senselessly.
Last year, I met a mother who lost her only daughter to an opioid overdose. She told me of her pain and anguish when thinking about her daughter in the wee hours of the night. She could not find answers. She did not know where to turn. She just wanted to prevent other young people from being victims of this crisis.
Just recently, I attended the funeral of a young man who I have known for many years, whose best years were ahead of him. He was passionate, energetic, brilliant and had a heart of gold. We lose countless young men and women like this each and every day.
I want to thank many of the members in this chamber who shared their personal experiences, because I do not think that a single person in this chamber is immune to this loss.
I also want to thank, acknowledge and extend my deepest condolences to the families of the many young people who have died during these years. We share their pain. We weep with them. We will always remember these young men and women in the work we do. They are not a statistic. They are our sons, our daughters, our neighbours and our friends.
I want to give members a sense of the things that our government has undertaken since taking office in 2015.
In 2016, our government invested more than $331 million in an effort to respond to the crisis and address the broader issue of substance use.
In budget 2017, $100 million was allocated, over five years, which equals $22.7 million annually, to ongoing efforts to enhance related harm reductions, as well as to strengthen the evidence base.
The substantive portion of my debate will be focused on the evidence base. However, let me just outline some of the other things that our government has undertaken.
In budget 2018, $231.4 million, over five years, was put toward establishing an emergency treatment fund, developing a national public education campaign, enhancing stability of front-line personnel to detect and intercept illegal drugs at the border, as well as to accelerate and expand access to timely national public health data and analysis.
Our government has also used existing resources to support and then respond to the crisis. For example, $16 million in emergency funding to B.C. and Alberta alone is currently funding 28 opioid-specific projects through the substance use and addictions program at a value of $9.5 million a year. There have been 32 supervised consumption sites approved in Canada. There have been 12 federally trained public health officers deployed to jurisdictions. More than 42 kilograms of fentanyl has been seized between April of 2016 to September of this year. We moved the overdose antidote naloxone to a non-prescription status and made it more widely available. There are a number of other initiatives. However, let me speak primarily on the need for data.
I have heard many people speak this evening and I know everyone here means well. I think everybody comes to this debate from the right place. However, I think we need to be frank with each other. Nobody knows the answer. There is no silver bullet. There are things that governments can do, and as a government we are doing, but at the core of it we need more data, more information and more research. This is why we have supported and we will continue to support research at the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. Over the last five years, the CIHR has invested more than $88 million in research in areas related to problematic substance use. This includes $22 million in research related to problematic opioid use. Research supported by these investments provide new knowledge and the evidence needed to make informed policies in order to better address the needs of Canadians suffering from opioid use.
For example, CIHR recently announced an investment of $1.1 million for a project by the University of British Columbia that focuses on evaluating the benefits of expanding the availability of prescribed opioids for the treatment of opioid use disorder. More specifically, this research project will explore how patients with different characteristics respond to treatment, which will help in the design of expanded services for patients.
In addition to this research project, CIHR is supporting various research initiatives aimed at addressing the opioid crisis. I would like to provide an overview of some of these initiatives that are providing important evidence needed by governments to made informed decisions.
I wish to begin by highlighting a pan-Canadian research consortium on problematic substance use that CIHR is supporting, the Canadian research initiative in substance misuse, or CRISM. CRISM is generating timely evidence related to the treatment of opioid use disorder by facilitating communication and collaboration between researchers, service providers, policy-makers, patients and people who use substances. In effect, it has a wraparound approach. It aims to translate evidence-based interventions with substance use into clinical practice, community-based prevention, harm reduction and health system changes. For example, CRISM developed the first Canadian guideline for managing opioid use disorder. This guideline, released in March of this year, addresses current gaps in care of opioid use disorder. It serves as an educational tool for Canadian health professionals and provides clinical practice recommendations for the treatment of opioid use disorder. The guideline also serves as a main resource informing development of evidence-based strategies related to treatment access policies on opioid use disorder across Canada.
CRISM is also addressing evidence gaps related to medication-assisted therapy for treating prescription opioid use disorder. With a $4.4 million investment from CIHR, CRISM is conducting the OPTIMA study, a national clinical trial to compare and evaluate two models of care for prescription opioid use disorder. OPTIMA will generate evidence in real life clinical practice settings and will be used to inform patient care and improve health outcomes for all Canadians. In addition to providing guidance on OPTIMA strategies for treatment of problematic opioid use, CRISM is conducting research to facilitate and scale up promising interventions that reduce the harms associated with opioid consumption.
CIHR is providing an additional $7.5 million to CRISM for the implementation science program on opioid interventions and services.
There are a number of other initiatives that I can speak about. For example, the knowledge synthesis initiative, another initiative of CIHR, invests $1.9 million in 22 research teams of experts and policy-makers to rapidly inform policies on opioids by addressing the most pressing evidence needs. These research projects were directly informed by stakeholders that are on the front lines of the opioid crisis, including service providers, community advocates and policy-makers at all levels of government.
There is no question that we need more information to make sound decisions. While we are waiting for that information, our government has undertaken a number of very important initiatives that I spoke about earlier, including investing in a number of different initiatives directly targeted at this crisis.
There is no silver bullet, but research is going to be at the core of a long-term solution that could address some of the underlying issues related to this crisis.
In conclusion, we all need to work together as parliamentarians. It is important that we recognize this to be an issue, a crisis, that needs to transcend party divisions and party lines. We need to look at this with a science-based approach, one that focuses on research and that undertakes immediate interventions, so that this crisis can ultimately be curtailed.
I know this is a difficult conversation for many, and I want to thank all my colleagues for their participation today.