Working at the North Island Gazette is a great job, though the view we have of the old True Value parking lot is a tough thing to deal with everyday.
Many a time our staff have had to call the RCMP to report people passed out in that parking lot, and it never gets any easier seeing the RCMP and ambulance arrive on scene.
Thomas Kervin’s recent opinion-editorial about a Long-Term Rehabilitation Centre for the North Island was a startling wakeup call, as he laid out some very bitter truths in it that were hard to swallow, like the following:
“According to recent statistics, the North Island is second only to the Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside in addictions, at least within BC. That’s a really hard truth to accept.”
I’ve known ever since I was a little kid that Port Hardy has had substance abuse problems, but after moving back home roughly two years ago and constantly seeing the reality of the situation decimating the downtown commercial area, it’s been really getting to me and weighing on my conscience.
Should I write about it?
If I do write about it, should I be blunt and point out just how bad it really is, or should I try and promote a more hopeful, positive outlook?
But if I do write a positive outlook on the issue, am I not being truthful as to what’s really going on?
Sometimes you just have to rip the bandaid off, even though you know it’s going to hurt.
I attended a Committee of the Whole meeting last year where Dr. Greg Kutny gave an impassioned plea to Port Hardy Council to work with the local health practitioners to find solutions for the public intoxication issue.
He said a lot of startling things during the meeting, a few of which I’ll quote below, the rest I will write an article about later.
“The level of public intoxication is significantly worse than I’ve ever seen it in the past.”
“There’s almost an acceptance of drinking in public, we all see it every day right behind Providence Place.”
“People are smoking crack behind the public health office, and it’s gotten out of hand.”
“The sexual assault rate in this community is massive and it is absolutely soul crushing.”
Kutney added that the public intoxication problem will affect the district’s bottom line by causing major issues for tourism, something I wholeheartedly agree with.
It’s not just alcohol either. Back in June, I wrote an in-depth article about fentanyl reaching the North Island communities after being tipped off about the issue, here’s the most pertinent parts quoted below.
“I can confirm that we have been notified on a few occasions over the past month that Narcan was utilized on unconscious patients that were suspected Fentanyl overdoses … Fentanyl has made its way into the North Island communities.” – Port Hardy Staff Sgt. Wes Olsen.
“It is here, we know it’s here — there have been patients that have been given large doses of Narcan in order to be revived, which is indicative of a powerful opiate like fentanyl.” – BC Emergency Health Services Port Hardy Unit Chief Nat Pottage.
So what is the answer to our addiction problem?
I don’t know, but maybe being open and honest about it and bringing the issues to the surface for everyone to see is a good start to working towards some kind of a solution.
A lot of people I grew up with, went to school with, laughed with, partied with, played sports with, have now unfortunately become North Island statistics, and I’m constantly reminded of them whenever I look out the window.