“We are urging the government to treat this as the health crisis that it is” said Prince George-Valemount MLA Shirley Bond.
Bond is the deputy chair of an all-party committee that has just given 37 recommendations to the provincial government regarding the drug toxicity and overdose crisis.
“There is no one-size-fits-all response to this crisis. The committee wants to see significant investments across the entire continuum of care – from prevention and education to treatment and recovery – as well as ongoing evaluation and monitoring to ensure results are achieved,” Bond said in a news release.
The recommendations fall under nine categories:
- Overarching Government Response
- Prevention and Education
- Harm Reduction
- Safer Supply
- Treatment and Recovery
- Enforcement and Decriminalization
- Indigenous People
- Additional Measures
“What we really want to let the government know,” Bond told My Cariboo Now, “there are very significant numbers of missed opportunities.”
She said ministries and organizations have a very concerning lack of communication with each other – “over 70% of people who had died had a visit with a health professional less than three months before their death, 30% had 10 or more visits in the months before their deaths… frankly, something is broken, and the government needs to do its job and fix it.”
The report states that in the six years since 2016 when drug related deaths were declared a public health emergency in the province, 10,000 people across the province have died to toxic drugs.
The committee asked the public for its input on the crisis through public hearings and letters.
They received 881 written submissions from across the province and had 118 presenters speak to them, ranging from support groups to federal and provincial briefings.
“One of the most difficult things to hear over and over again was the fact that there are times when people bravely step up and ask for help, and what did we learn? That there are wait lists and lack of resources. That is even more challenging if you live in rural B.C.” said Bond. “That is a window of opportunity that is missed, and we must do so much better than that.”
Bond says the first and biggest step that needs to be made is increasing access to treatment and recovery services.
“We heard that some British Columbians are not able to access life-saving supports and services, either because they aren’t available in their community or because of other barriers,” said Vancouver-Hastings MLA Niki Sharma, the committee chair.
“The committee’s report makes recommendations to further scale up government’s response to ensure that all British Columbians can access high-quality substance-use support and care when they need it.”
“Over the past five years, our government has been building a system of mental-health and substance-use care; one that didn’t exist prior to 2017. From investments into new treatment, more supports for young people and new overdose prevention measures, our government has scaled up and expanded access to make sure when people ask for help, services are available for them,” said Sheila Malcolmson, the Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, in a news release.
“I am grateful to the committee for their hard work on this complex and evolving public-health emergency. Thanks also to the nearly 1,000 people, organizations and subject-matter experts who shared their advice and personal experience with the committee.”
For the full report, click here.
-Files from Will Peters, My PG Now