As we enter into a new year, I am reminded that British Columbia still has no comprehensive addiction strategy. Every day, people in this province continue to desperately search for a way out from the grips of addiction but are met with more barriers than ever before. Throughout 2019, I heard from parents desperate to get their children into addiction treatment but are instead being left out in the cold as this government fails to adequately fund treatment facilities.
Harm reduction approaches such as overdose prevention sites and greater distribution of naloxone kits are saving lives but, with overdose rates higher than ever, they alone are not enough to break the cycle of addiction.
Getting people who are willing and ready to enter treatment and recovery as soon as possible, is vital to helping overcome this addiction crisis.
Parents of children suffering from addiction shouldn’t have to worry about the availability of treatment beds if their child is willing to go to treatment and get better. Sadly, John Horgan and the NDP have largely ignored the recovery sector in B.C. since first coming to power.
As the Critic for Mental Health and Addictions, I have long advocated for the need for a full spectrum of care. We need a mental health system that serves youth and adults equally, that focuses on early intervention and that helps those dealing with addiction access treatment that will eventually lead to recovery. Yet, to date, any progress on this from this NDP government has been painfully slow and their reluctance to increase funding for life-saving treatment makes it easy to question their priorities.
Importantly, any action from the government must also address the current vaping epidemic, a serious addiction that is impacting thousands of youth throughout the province. The fact that the NDP is lagging behind Alberta – and even Donald Trump – in banning flavoured vaping products is further evidence of this government’s inaction in tackling addiction in B.C. Vaping has been one of the fastest-growing addiction epidemics in North America and our government must respond with swift and decisive action before we lose an entire generation to nicotine addiction.
People around this province are still grappling with addiction and overdose at an alarming rate. The BC Centre for Disease Control recently released a report confirming overdose rates have hit an all-time high, leaving no time for bureaucracy to get in the way.
With over 4,850 opioid-related deaths in British Columbia since the crisis was first declared, we should not be satisfied with continuing to pursue the same policies. People in this province deserve action from John Horgan and it’s time we see it.
By MLA Jane Thornthwaite