The provincial New Democrats say urgent investments are needed in mental health and addiction supports in Nipissing and across Ontario.

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath was in Downtown North Bay Tuesday morning calling for the cap on the number of overdose prevention sites in Ontario to be scrapped.

“The cap will come off immediately when I become Premier next year because we know that it saves lives.  It prevents parents from having to bury their children and it creates opportunity for people like Nikki who, having received the treatment needed, has been able to turn her life around and proudly be clean for two years now,” Horwath says.

Nikki Mattinas grew up in North Bay and says she went through the hardship of suffering addiction her whole life.  

“I feel that in order to help people to get clean to start the recovery process there needs to be more accessible services in the North Bay community,” she says. “I’ve lost 10 friends due to overdose in the two years that I’ve been clean and I feel that having a safe injection site would benefit the area.  If they would have not used alone, their lives could have been saved.”

Erika Lougheed, NDP candidate for Nipissing says urgent action is needed now to support stakeholders and address gaps. 

“In our health unit there have been over four overdose deaths a month,” says Lougheed. “In August, we surpassed all of 2020 overdose deaths.” 

The New Democrats say cuts and underfunding closed 29 residential treatment beds in the northeast last year. 

On top of long wait times for residential treatment in North Bay, the NDP says the wait time for youth mental health treatment is now 370 days.

In response, Vic Fedeli, MPP for Nipissing offered the following statement: 

“It’s disappointing that Andrea Horwath and the NDP chose to vote against our government’s $3.8 billion investment over 10 years to expand mental health and addictions services, including $194 million in pandemic-related emergency funding to enhance and expand mental health and addiction services and supports for Ontarians of all ages and funding especially for programming available to our front-line healthcare heroes.”

Fedeli says that includes over $40 million in new annualized funding specifically to address the needs of those living with mental health and addiction challenges in Northern Ontario.

“And unlike Andrea Horwath and the NDP who said ‘no’ to supporting the people of Ontario – including saying ‘no’ to providing an additional $1.4B in support for our small businesses – our government will continue to be there to support Ontario families every step of the way. Together, we will defeat this deadly virus and put this pandemic behind us,” read the statement.