By The Editorial Board / Maggie MacPherson, Globe and Mail

Sophie Breen suffered through trauma and mental illness and pursued a degree in social work. She died at 27. Nick Crazy Bull was a musician and a gamer. He died at 19. Christopher Martin worked as a mine millwright. He died at 40.

Ms. Breen, Mr. Crazy Bull and Mr. Martin are three names on a list that is far too long and getting longer every day – the toll of Canada’s overdose epidemic. Overdoses have killed more than 20,000 Canadians since 2016. Last weekend, The Globe and Mail presented the stories of 100 people who were lost in 2020 to overdoses, because last year was Canada’s worst year yet.

Most governments in Canada have been too slow to respond to an epidemic that shows no signs of abating. There are no magic solutions and no single policy that can instantly reverse the tide, but health experts have long advocated for changes such as drug decriminalization and access to a safer supply of drugs as two important measures that could save lives.

The severity of the epidemic has led to a shift in recent months. Many political leaders previously rejected policies such as decriminalization and safer supply, but the ideas are now, to a growing extent, embraced. The debate is no longer stuck on whether an idea is worth trying. It is more and more about how best to do it.