Fentanyl overdoses are projected to claim a record number of lives in British Columbia this year, but the BC Liberal government has failed to provide adequate, accessible pathways to treatment for people and families desperately seeking mental health and addiction services, said New Democrat leader John Horgan.
“We’ve been watching this deadly spike in fentanyl use and fatal overdoses since 2013, yet addiction services and access to treatment beds have not kept pace with the crisis,” Horgan said. “Where has the Clark government been for the past two years? Why is our provincial government unable to meet the needs of people and families desperate to find help when it comes to opioid addiction?
“Today, I heard from people who have seen the devastating effects of this drug, and from people on the front line who see every day the toll this is taking on our communities. Their message to the provincial government is clear: our response and treatment systems can’t cope with this crisis, and addiction won’t wait for this government to catch up,” said Horgan.
Horgan and MLAs Carole James (Victoria-Beacon Hill), Rob Fleming (Victoria-Swan Lake) and Selina Robinson (Coquitlam-Maillardville) met with families and advocacy organizations on Vancouver Island, which has suffered the worst per-capita overdose death rate in the province.
“Premier Christy Clark needs to do more, and she needs to do it today. This can’t wait for promises. It can’t wait for an election. This is a drug that has killed more than 400 people in our province already this year. The premier needs to tell people how she will meet her promise of 500 treatment beds as soon as possible,” said Horgan.
Horgan is calling on the premier to take two immediate steps:
· Meet her 2013 election commitment to open 500 additional addiction treatment beds before 2017. The B.C. Liberal government has missed deadlines for the past three years, and as a result over 60 per cent of the promised addiction treatment spaces remain unopened.
· License the ownership of pill presses and tablet machines. Similar legislation is already in effect in Alberta, and was proposed by New Democrats in the legislature this spring.
“When someone needs supports, they can’t be stuck on a wait list. They should not be forced to navigate the yawning gaps in B.C.’s treatment services. Addictions don’t wait, and the fentanyl overdose numbers make that clear,” said Horgan.
“All too often, the Christy Clark government relies on crisis management responses to urgent issues in B.C., and our two-year crisis in opioid addiction is yet another example. This government has failed in its duty to help the people and families struggling to find their way to treatment and support.”