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September 27, 2007
Toronto Drug Strategy officials call for provincial leadership on substance use
Today the Toronto Drug Strategy Implementation Panel called for provincial leadership on alcohol and other drug issues. Substance use is an important public health and community safety issue requiring a comprehensive approach that includes prevention, harm reduction, treatment and enforcement.

“Provincial party leaders must step up to the plate on alcohol and other drug issues. There is no provincial drug strategy in Ontario,” said Councillor Kyle Rae, Chair of the Panel, “and that harms individuals, families and communities both in Toronto and across the province.” Harmful substance use costs Ontario an estimated $8.2 billion per year. People who use alcohol and other drugs may experience addiction, work-related issues, infectious diseases such as Hepatitis C and HIV/AIDS, injuries, violence and other related crimes. Many of these harms are preventable and many can be mitigated.

The call for action outlines several priorities, including affordable and supportive housing, reinstatement of addiction as an eligible disability under the Ontario Disability Support Program and investment in comprehensive prevention initiatives. “We need urgent investment in prevention,” said Councillor Gord Perks, a member of the Toronto Drug Strategy Implementation Panel. “Not in traditional approaches that have consistently failed in the past, but in evidence-based programs that actually work.”

Another priority is residential treatment for youth, as there are no programs in Toronto. Parents are forced to send their children outside the city for help, sometimes to other provinces or the United States. “Treatment providers are stretched to capacity and long waiting lists are discouraging for youth and their families,” said Dennis Long, Executive Director of Breakaway Youth and Family Services. “We need to be able to respond immediately when a young person asks for help, not six months down the road. Residential treatment is a key part of the range of treatment services that we need for youth in Toronto.”

Toronto City Council endorsed the Toronto Drug Strategy in December 2005. More information about the Toronto Drug Strategy is available at

Toronto is Canada’s largest city and sixth largest government, and home to a diverse population of about 2.6 million people. It is the economic engine of Canada and one of the greenest and most creative cities in North America. In the past three years, Toronto has won more than 70 awards for quality, innovation and efficiency in delivering public services. Toronto’s government is dedicated to prosperity, opportunity and liveability for all its residents.

Media contacts:
Councillor Kyle Rae, 416-392-7903
Councillor Gord Perks, 416-392-7919
Susan Sperling, Media Relations Co-ordinator, Toronto Public Health, 416-338-7974

Note: Contacts for media interviews with community service providers and individuals and families affected by substance use will be available.



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