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FORSETH – We need political will to deal with clear evidence on drug deaths

HOW MANY TIMES is this government going to frustrate the people of B.C. with their pious and pompous wailing and gnashing of teeth regarding the thousand of British Columbians being taken (many in the prime of their lives) BEFORE THEY ACTUALLY DO SOMETHING?

Something more than just running a few more TV and bus board ads?

In a media release last week from the Public Safety and Solicitor General’s Office came this startling information … those dying from illicit drug overdoses plateaued in 2018, despite significant efforts from groups around the province to prevent deaths.

The B.C. Coroners Service reports there were 1,489 suspected illicit drug overdose deaths in 2018, just over the total of overdose deaths seen in 2017. It is likely the number of these deaths for 2018 will increase as investigations conclude.

Just how many, you ask?

  • there was at least one illicit drug overdose death in 354 of the 365 days – however the AVERAGE is in fact 4.01 per day.
  • in my hometown of Kamloops, we saw a 20% increase.  In 2017 there were 38 overdose deaths, while last year that number went up to 48 (FOUR EVERY MONTH)!
  • the three communities with the highest number of illicit drug overdose deaths in 2018 were Vancouver with 382, Surrey at 210, and Victoria coming in at 94.

Illicit drug overdose deaths, the government calls them … and yet each one of those so-called ‘illicit drug deaths’ were individuals who had been loved, were part of a family, and possibly had children.

They suffered death from overdoses and/ or poisoned drug supplies … from poisoned drug sources … and from a government completely uncaring in actually dealing with the situation!

What they are importing, mainly from China, is dangerous, lethal, and brings nothing but sadness to the families these heartless pigs prey upon.

I pity the job of Lisa Lapointe, Chief Coroner for the B.C. Coroners Service, having to be the public face of this situation, and having to state the obvious in the media release.

Families and communities across the province are losing friends, neighbours and loved ones to illicit overdoses at an alarming rate. The illicit drug supply is unpredictable and unmanageable, and fentanyl is now implicated in 86% of overdose deaths.

And yet WHAT DOES THE GOVERNMENT DO ABOUT THE SITUATION?

Hand out free needles and cooking kits … run advertising warning those at risk about the dangers of unsafe drug supplies … create a few safe injection sites … and hand out naloxone kits.

Sadly, it’s too late for the almost 1,500 people lying dead and buried due to illicit drug overdoses last year … HOWEVER, it’s NOT too late to implement actual:

 “… innovative and evidence-based approaches … if we want to effect meaningful change and stop the dying … to be prepared to do things differently to save lives.”

As I stated in a commentary last September:

Government, however, seems content to simply pick the low hanging fruit, rather than going after the real criminals and murderers.

B.C.’s Attorney General David Eby was quoted in the Globe and Mail saying, “While much attention has been focused on the effects of street drugs contaminated by illicit fentanyl and carfentanyl, there is another side of this crisis.”

Calling the overdose deaths a “terrible toll,” Eby said (pharmaceutical) companies were responsible because of their “negligence and corruption” over the last 20 years.

You won’t catch me saying they aren’t responsible (at least in part) for drug overdose deaths – but Eby is wrong, totally wrong, when he attempts to lay the blame for the ‘terrible toll’ in their laps.

The pharmaceutical companies aren’t manufacturing the deadly poison laced with fentanyl, which is killing hundreds every month.  It’s the individuals with enough money to bring in the deadly stuff, often times from China, who are creating the poison, and who then get off with a slap on the wrist – generally a jail term of under 24 months.

These murderers, who are bringing in and manufacture drugs with a known fatal poison (Fentanyl), snuffed out the lives of nearly 1,500 people last year.  They need the full force of the law thrown at them!  What they are importing, mainly from China, is dangerous, lethal, and brings nothing but sadness to the families these heartless pigs’ prey upon.

That’s just one part of the equation, however.  Dr. Evan Wood, executive director with the B.C. Centre on Substance Use, recommends a number of upstream solutions, including improved addiction training to support prevention and treatment. He also points to the need for policy changes to end prohibition, which creates the circumstances for the fentanyl market and continues to stigmatize substance use.

Wood stated, “This latest report confirms what those on the frontline already know all too well; this crisis is not slowing down.

If we’re going to stop overdoses from happening, we urgently need to end the harms caused by prohibition while also implementing upstream responses that address the serious health and social consequences of untreated addiction.”

And those upstream responses, as Dr. Wood calls them, are already well known to those in government who do actually have the ability (but sadly not the desire) to implement.

Key, in my mind, regarding those upstream responses include taking the position that expanding and improving recovery services is a key element of creating a coordinated and effective continuum of addiction care.

And as the B.C. Centre of Substance Use already stated nearly two years ago … while it is critically important to provide life-saving public health services and effective acute treatment services, it is also necessary to develop and strengthen long-term recovery-oriented services to support people struggling with addiction.  This includes empowering people in recovery, and individuals and their families, to support one another in their pursuit of improved health and well-being.

I read that statement and ask myself … the government wastes millions in advertising to tell people dangerous street drugs can, and will, kill you.  What part of that actually does what is already known to be needed?   A plan to … develop and strengthen long-term recovery-oriented services to support people struggling with addiction.

The part it plays is … you guessed it … ABSOLUTELY ZERO!

The actual challenges, which require the commitment of government to fully implement, start with reducing the difficulties in accessing services, making sure every street worker / social worker / and those at soup kitchens and emergency know where those suffering from the ravages of drugs can go for help (or at least have knowledge of where to access that information).

We can no longer say, “Sorry the inn is full … you’ll have to come another day.”

Recovery beds need to be there the minute someone ready to begin the journey out of a drug fueled haze and self-loathing says I’ve hit bottom – I need help.

If we profess to be a caring society, we cannot continue to allow for long delays to access treatment facilities, for there to be a lack of professionals for mental health and emotional problems, and a lack of programs and supports in the community once individuals have completed a recovery program.

These are the challenges facing those who are in the midst of addiction … and they are nearly insurmountable for the over eight in ten individuals ready to begin their journey to recovery!

Finally, we must acknowledge, and demand that government ensures the road to recovery includes necessities such as education to increase prospects for employment … safe and affordable housing … and help in looking at employment goals.

Leslie McBain, co-founder of Moms Stop the Harm stated in the B.C. government media release that:

Thousands upon thousands of family members are grieving today because of the preventable deaths of their childrenit is time to step up and stop the deaths by implementing the evidence-based solutions. This requires the political will, funding and a courageous change in direction. We already have the knowledge to end the biggest health crisis this country has ever seen.”

McBain is correct … now all we need is the will of government, a mix of people from all walks of life, to truly begin implementing the evidence presented to them by the experts.

Alan Forseth is a Kamloops resident and former member of the Reform Party of Canada and the B.C. Reform Party, and a past and current member of the BC Conservative Party. His blog is My Thoughts on Politics and More.

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About Mel Rothenburger (6934 Articles)
ArmchairMayor.ca is a forum about Kamloops and the world. It has more than one million views. Mel Rothenburger is the former Editor of The Daily News in Kamloops, B.C. (retiring in 2012), and past mayor of Kamloops (1999-2005). At ArmchairMayor.ca he is the publisher, editor, news editor, city editor, reporter, webmaster, and just about anything else you can think of. He is grateful for the contributions of several local columnists. This blog doesn't require a subscription but gratefully accepts donations to help defray costs.

3 Comments on FORSETH – We need political will to deal with clear evidence on drug deaths

  1. Actually any meaningful undertaking regarding hard drugs have been forever obstructed by the conservatives.
    So stop the rhetoric Alan.

    • Alan Forseth // February 11, 2019 at 1:30 PM // Reply

      Rhetoric abounds that’s for sure Pierre. Thisr on the Left or so-called right (Liberals) have not done what’s needed. — and that’s what typically happens when people PLAY POLITICS instead of getting things done!

      Put YOUR rhetoric aside Sir, and instead work towards insisting thst our political leadership impliment the solutions which are already well known

      • The comprehensive “war on drugs” is an international/federal/provincial/municipal gargantuan undertaking.
        Personally I always supported controversial undertaking, especially when considering the absurdity of the present paradigm.

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