VANCOUVER — Mayors from 13 cities across Canada are calling for a national standard on the collection and sharing of data on overdose deaths along with medical treatment for addiction.
A task force they created has released its initial recommendations to the federal government as British Columbia marks a year since declaring a public health emergency over soaring overdose fatalities.
The cities represented include Vancouver, Surrey, B.C., Edmonton, Calgary, Regina, Saskatoon, Winnipeg, Montreal, and the Ontario cities of Toronto, Ottawa, Hamilton, London and Kitchener.
"Fentanyl is the leading cause of drug overdose death in one third of the Canadian cities represented by the task force, but there are huge challenges in collecting and accessing basic data, let alone ample and timely access to addictions treatment and care," said Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson, who chairs the group.
Only Vancouver and Surrey receive monthly overdose data from local health authorities, the task force said in a news release.
It said just six of the cities — Vancouver, Surrey, Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg and Montreal — have access to the most recent information, from last year.
"We need a strong national response to fix this data problem and scale up an immediate increase in medical solutions to save lives," Robertson said.
"The glaring gaps in drug overdose data mask the seriousness of the fentanyl crisis and are a dangerous barrier to addressing the horrific overdose death toll impacting families across Canada."
Robertson also called for addiction treatment with medications, such as the painkiller hydromorphone or injectable heroin.
The Crosstown clinic in Vancouver is the only facility in North America to offer such treatment for people who have not succeeded in combating their addiction through other methods.
Task force members have met with the federal ministers of health and public safety to discuss the need for standardized data collection, the release said.
"We can't end this crisis without clear data on what's happening on the ground and involving cities is the solution," Robertson said.