VICTORIA, B.C. - Last year 1,716 people died of illicit drug overdoses in B.C., ending 2020 as the deadliest year for overdoses in the province. Sonia Furstenau, leader of the B.C. Greens and MLA for Cowichan Valley, says an immediate, evidence based, integrated, and regulated plan is needed.
“These numbers are staggering - as they have been since the health emergency was declared in April 2016. There is no way to adequately articulate the immense suffering and heartbreak this horrifying loss of life has brought to our province.
“I recently met with a local chapter of Moms Stop the Harm and we discussed the gaping voids in our existing patchwork of supports and services for the countless British Columbians with substance use disorder. From treatment options that are either inadequate, unaffordable, or nonexistent, to housing policies that border on punitive, many people with this health condition feel they are being set up to fail.
“The situation is so dire, and the illicit drug supply is so poisonous that one parent told me: ‘we need immediate low barrier, regulated, non-stigmatized safe supply to save people from the poisoned drug supply. Because if your child dies there's no more time for other interventions to help.'
“It is heartbreaking that things have gotten to the point where we are striving for survival, with wellness and healing out of reach for many. We can and must do better.
This week the provincial government provided an update on the training of 30 additional registered and psychiatric nurses in British Columbia who will be able to prescribe Suboxone, a prescription opioid substitute.
“I am grateful to see progress, but also keenly aware that a policy of this importance requires an incredibly careful, evidence based, and integrated roll out to ensure it can be scaled up effectively. Decriminalization of simple possession of illicit drugs is also a necessary part of an effective response. It will reduce the stigma of drug use, which creates barriers to accessing important health services.
“As we contend with the existing drug toxicity crisis, as legislators we must also work to build the foundations for a healthier province going forward. Depression, anxiety, and people contemplating suicide are at an all time high in Canada. It is past time we integrated mental health care into the primary healthcare system. Research from the last four decades illustrates how integrating psychology into the healthcare system not only reduces needless suffering and loss of life, it also reduces overall health care spending.”
B.C. Green Caucus
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