It’s clear many cities and towns across British Columbia are in the throes of what is known as the opioid crisis. Following up on a previous column on the drug epidemic in Port Hardy, it’s doubly obvious that current strategies aren’t working. The increasing number of overdoses in our town, the number of pain pill-dependent residents, and availability of street drugs are a growing public concern, to say the least.
In a Feb. 2 interview with Vancouver Island North MLA Claire Trevena, she admits that the situation we are in with the opioid crisis is “a tragedy,” going on to further say that “you can see the numbers of people that are dying”.
To combat the issue head on, BC NDP has taken efforts to compose a number of community action teams.
Further, BC government recently allocated $20,000,000 to address the drug crisis over the next three years. The First Nations Health Authority (FNHA) was granted monies to combat the growing drug overdose emergency across the province. The funding will go towards First Nations communities across the province.
Vancouver Island was granted $476,037 in funding alone in hopes of stopping the opioid public health emergency. One of the four goals that will hopefully come about from the funding was to “create an accessible range of treatment options,” according to FNHA’s Framework for Action on Responding to the Overdose/Opioid Public Health Emergency for First Nations. Meaning that, for First Nations communities, they will have easy access to treatment centres.
If we already have the funding on way and we have our local MLA pushing for action, what’s stopping us from addressing the epidemic? Nearly every day someone overdoses and gets rushed to the hospital in hopes of preventing their death. Shouldn’t such a life-or-death situation, quite literally, be of utmost importance to local representatives?
To reiterate from a previous statistic: North Island drug abuse and number of overdoses is second only to the downtown eastside in Vancouver. A recent 2017 report by the RCMP shows that public intoxication incidents are a growing issue to our community – 367 cases opened in the last year. Moreover, a number of health professionals and local representatives met on Feb. 19 to address public intoxication, reaffirming the urgency of the problem.
So while there seems to be discussion around the issue, it’s just that — discussion. What this translates to in the meantime is this – there’s no real action being done to stop preventable deaths.
Which is why I’m publicly calling for a drug task force and a renewed political will for a drug and alcohol rehabilitation centre for the North Island. Port Hardy is currently in the middle of developing an official health strategy to address the drug crisis. But let’s get one thing straight — mayor and council have a moral duty to stop these tragedies from happening.
Let’s hope it isn’t too late, before another completely preventable, tragic overdose happens again. After all, it could be someone in your family or a friend that has the unfortunate luck of overdosing from fentanyl-laced opioids.
For starters, mayor and council of each town in the Mt. Waddington region could come together to construct a tri-town strategy. In my e-petition for a rehabilitation centre, the Mayor of Port McNeill, Shirley Ackland, has already publicly supported it. Naturally, this brings up a question – why haven’t other mayors and councillors already supported it?
We could even include the three local First Nations band administrations, too – Kwakiutl, Gwa’sala-’Nakwaxda’xw, and Quatsino. After all, the public funds coming from BC government are going to FNHA, but that doesn’t mean the surrounding towns couldn’t work together with neighbouring First Nations.
One thing for certain is this — we need a comprehensive strategy in place, and when we do, it’ll be that much easier to come together to build a drug and alcohol rehabilitation centre. If we have all these organizations involved, there will certainly be a solution that works.