STONE – ‘Better is possible’ in doing something about B.C.’s toxic drug crisis

Part of materials seized in a drug raid.

MLA, Kamloops-South Thompson

THIS WEEK, the B.C. Coroners Service released year-end numbers that showed 2,272 lives were lost to a toxic drug overdose in 2022. That’s six people every single day.

This is enormously tragic, and reinforces the fact that the current NDP government cannot continue to take the same failed approach over and over again, and expect different results.

MLA Todd Stone.

Also this week, the government announced one new tactic — decriminalization of personal possession of small amounts of illicit drugs.

This pilot project will be the first of its kind in Canada, and although the NDP had months to prepare, it has failed to meet several conditions imposed by the federal government.

There are specific actions and commitments outlined in the the Government of Canada’s Letter of Requirements to support B.C.’s exemption from the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.

The B.C. government has pledged to expand the capacity of accessible treatment; better engage with key stakeholders and Indigenous partners; increase public education and communications efforts; ensure the readiness and capacity of the health and social systems; increase training and support for law enforcement; and develop monitoring, applied research and evaluation models to measure the success of the program.

So far, Premier David Eby hasn’t made clear how his government will meet these important obligations as it rolls out this new decriminalization policy.

We need to know what steps are being taken to increase supports for those suffering from addiction, because as many experts have noted, harm reduction efforts like decriminalization form only part of the comprehensive approach that’s needed to help put an end to this crisis.

B.C. needs record investment in prevention, recovery, and treatment programs but, sadly, over the past five years this government has failed to put any emphasis on these important priorities.

Meanwhile, nearly a year has passed since the B.C. Coroners Service Death Review Panel report was published, which outlined the urgency of the crisis in our province and included a 30/60/90-day action plan. To this day, the NDP government has ignored the urgent timetable and has failed to take meaningful steps to address serious gaps in the system of care.

People suffering from addiction must be able to immediately access the services they need, when they need them. When they pick up a phone and say they’re ready to accept help, a bed needs to be available immediately. Supports need to be in place to support their detox, recovery, and future. And that isn’t happening under the leadership of David Eby’s NDP.

This is why the B.C. Liberals have announced a major change in direction — a plan to overhaul the delivery of mental health services and to build a recovery-oriented system of care for those suffering from addiction.

We pledge to build on innovative models like the Red Fish Healing Centre — located on the former Riverview lands in Coquitlam — in regions across the province so people with severe and complex needs can get compassionate, 24/7 psychosocial support.

We will eliminate user fees at publicly funded addiction treatment beds and provide direct government funding for private beds, because money shouldn’t determine whether or not you get well.

We will build regional recovery communities where people struggling with addiction can stay for up to a year with individualized, holistic treatment support. Although always a last resort, we will implement involuntary care for adults and youth at risk of harm to themselves or others.

And we will have plans in place to address homelessness; provide prevention education to youth; create supports for families navigating the system; and establish detailed data systems to track province-wide performance measures and targets.

What we’ve got right now under the NDP is a patchwork approach that isn’t making any noticeable improvement to this dire, tragic situation. We need comprehensive action, with funding to back it up, and we need it now.

We cannot continue to lose one British Columbian — a beloved parent, child, friend or colleague that mattered — every four hours, every single day.

In the words of B.C. Liberal Leader Kevin Falcon, “better is possible.” It’s about time we start to believe it and take the bold, decisive actions needed to make it a reality for B.C.’s most vulnerable people.

Todd Stone was elected MLA for Kamloops-South Thompson in 2013, 2017, and again in 2020. He currently serves as the Official Opposition House Leader as well as the Critic for Jobs, Economic Recovery, Trade and Innovation.

About Mel Rothenburger (9489 Articles) 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 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.

1 Comment on STONE – ‘Better is possible’ in doing something about B.C.’s toxic drug crisis

  1. What is, “outlined in the the Government of Canada’s Letter of Requirements?” Mr. Todd Stone, please be specific. FOCUS is needed, badly…

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