With the opioid crisis happening across BC, community leaders are scrambling to tackle it head on. Lately, fentanyl has slowly crept into our Island communities. The drug, an opioid often used as an anesthesia, is often mixed with illicit drugs like cocaine. Unsuspecting drug users are at a higher risk of overdosing than ever before. It’s such a dire situation that Vancouver Island Health Authority has continually reported to Mayor and Council about solutions to the issue before it worsens. 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.
It seems almost every month we’re met with a tragedy that could’ve been prevented. In fact, BC’s Coroner’s Service reports 120 suspected drug users in BC had died from overdoses in just last March — they suspect sudden increases are directly connected to illicit fentanyl.
Adding to that the already dangerous use of opioids like carfentanil for heroin users. BC was hit with double whammy of toxic, deadly drug mixtures. But what can Port Hardy do before it really hits us?
Well, pointing out the obvious — better illicit drug use awareness campaigns may be a good start. Not to mention something like police services combating access of drugs. But these are all too common sense already. What we need, and we need to do it quickly, is a long-term rehabilitation center. There may already be one in Port Hardy, but we need to increase services so that it’s available to more residents.
Of course, this huge project might take years to plan, let alone finish. But there is a sense of urgency, however, especially with so many overdoses — we need to start doing something now. The cost of a rehabilitation center with hospital standards might range anywhere from $5,000,000 to $8,000,000 compared to other rehabilitation centers in similar sized communities. This typically includes construction, cost of the land, utilities, designs, and furnishings.
Pretty affordable if we look at local municipal hall funds, provincial grant funds and federal grants funds. Little money would come out of the pockets of Port Hardy residents for this project.
It wouldn’t be a bad idea to start a committee specifically on the opioid crisis either. It would be a locally-led conversation about how we as a community can prevent the crisis here; how we can plan against it before it really starts to affect us. The trick here is to be proactive, not reactive.
We can all do something by contacting local representatives to see what kind of legislation they could propose. In fact, we need stronger laws which restrict opioid prescriptions. Whatever comes of the town’s plans, it is time to move forward. We can’t sit idly by while a tragedy happens in front of us, especially when it’s completely preventable. It’s not just about public policy — these are lives at stake.
Thomas Kervin is a recent political science alumnus from Simon Fraser University. He was born and raised in Port Hardy. He’s also a First Nations person who wants to address issues facing Indigenous communities today.