An editorial by Mel Rothenburger.
WHEN A PUBLIC HEALTH EMERGENCY was declared by B.C.’s provincial health officer in April of 2016, it was an important step against drug overdose deaths in B.C.
Then-health minister Terry Lake followed up a few months later with a ministerial order on the development of overdose prevention sites.
And Christy Clark, the premier at the time, appointed a joint task force to lead the battle against overdose deaths. The aim was to interrupt the supply of toxic drugs and expand access to naloxone, supervised consumption services and addiction treatment medications.
Those were just a few of the measures taken against the overdose epidemic. But since 2016, more than 10,000 British Columbians have died from drug overdoses.
Commenting on the latest numbers released yesterday, chief coroner Lisa Lapointe said the issue comes down to the fact that the ever-increasing toxicity of illicit drugs is outpacing efforts to save lives.
B.C. will likely set another record in 2022 for loss of life due to those toxic drugs — more than six lives per day. That tragic trend includes Kamloops, where 47 people have died in the first half of 2022.
One of the main culprits is fentanyl, a synthetic opioid created for pain management. Because it’s 50 to 100 times stronger than morphine, it’s easily open to abuse, and its presence in illicit drugs has risen exponentially.
So, obviously, the measures taken so far aren’t working. The impending decriminalization of small amounts of certain drugs may or may not help but it certainly isn’t the answer.
There’s still a debate to be held on providing addicts with free, clean drugs but, with street-drug toxicity confirmed as Enemy Number one, clearly the priority has to be getting rid of the poison, and that means a lot more resources for police. Only then can health-related measures become effective.
Not something many want to hear, but, like it or not, it’s the path that must be taken.
I’m Mel Rothenburger, the Armchair Mayor.
Mel Rothenburger is a former mayor of Kamloops and a retired newspaper editor. He is a regular contributor to CFJC Today, publishes the ArmchairMayor.ca opinion website, and is a director on the Thompson-Nicola Regional District board. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.