Just last month, the very last vehicle rolled off the production line at the Oshawa Assembly facility in Ontario. The GM plant was one of the biggest employers in the region, with more than 2,600 individuals working there prior to its closure. In a recent statement, Oshawa’s major, Dan Carter, said he was concerned by a new study that found a link between U.S. auto plant closures and a local spike in opioid overdose deaths.
According to the study, counties in which an auto plant closure had occurred in the last five years experienced an 85-percent rise in opioid overdose deaths. The study was published in the JAMA Internal Medicine medical journal, and co-authored by researchers from Yale University, Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, and University of Pennsylvania.
Carter said that a new pilot project called Welcoming Streets will provide insight into the impact of the GM plant closure in the Canadian city. The major also acknowledged that GM, Unifor, and the Ontario government are working to implement programs to help those laid off to find new jobs.
“We have to do more,” Carter said Friday. “If you are suffering with mental health or addiction, if you are suffering through this transitional period, it is my job to make sure that I advocate and do everything possible to be able to help you through this period of time.”
Carter’s personal investment in the issue partly stems from his history as a recovering alcoholic and drug addict. “Because of my commitment and my past, I am absolutely committed to helping these people through this period of time,” Carter said.
So far, opioid overdose deaths in Oshawa have not risen since the closure of the local GM plant.
The Oshawa Assembly facility saw more than a century of vehicle production, but didn’t fall under GM control until 1954. It its peak, the plant employed upwards of 23,000 people.
Going forward, a portion of the plant will remain in operation, retaining roughly 300 jobs for parts production and metal stamping. The property will also be used for autonomous vehicle testing.