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Premier’s, minister’s, provincial health officer’s statements on the eighth anniversary of toxic-drug public-health emergency

April 14, 2024 at 7:44 am  BC, News, Politics, Provincial

Premier David Eby has issued the following statement marking the eighth anniversary of the toxic-drug public-health emergency:

“Today, as we mark eight years since our province declared the toxic-drug crisis a public-health emergency, we recognize the catastrophic impact this crisis has had on so many people in British Columbia.

“Every life taken by this crisis is a loss to our community – they are friends, parents, siblings and children. To the families, friends and loved ones: we see you, we stand with you and we share in your pain.

“We must also recognize that this crisis has impacts beyond the tragic loss of life. From families and friends to mental-health and front-line workers, there are scores of people who have had to bear witness to the damage done to lives and communities from addiction and drug poisonings.

“We must, every one of us, recognize this emergency for what it is: a health crisis.

“Our government is committed to saving lives and building a better, more connected system of mental-health and addictions care. This includes expanding access to two innovative made-in-B.C. models of care: the Red Fish Healing Centre model, which prioritizes trauma-informed care; and the Road to Recovery model, which helps patients move seamlessly through a full spectrum of treatment services.

“We are also expanding youth mental-health and addictions supports, including by partnering on a first-of-its-kind centre to support Indigenous youth with detox services.

“There is much more to do. We are stronger when we work together. And together, we can end a crisis that has taken far too many of our neighbours, friends and family members.”

Jennifer Whiteside, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, said: “Eight years ago, B.C. declared a public-health emergency in response to the increasing number of drug-related deaths occurring in the province. This tragedy is immense, touching lives not only in our province, but across Canada and beyond.

“As we mark this day, we continue to mourn the individuals whose lives were cut short. Each life was a valued member of our community – a child, parent or friend whose loss has left a lasting void. Their stories, dreams and contributions to our communities remind us of the profound human cost of this crisis.

“This crisis affects everyone, and it is vital that we come together and offer support to those in pain. We are grateful to our front-line care providers working hard every day to support people at all stages in their recovery journey. Their actions, both big and small, create ripples of hope and healing across our communities.

“We know that there is more work to do to ensure that help is there when people are ready to reach out. We are expanding access to mental-health and addiction services throughout the province – from increasing the number of treatment beds that are available, to removing barriers to medication-assisted treatment, to implementing the new Road to Recovery program – so that help is available to all who need it, when they need it.

“As we grieve the lives that we have lost, we are resolved to continue to build and strengthen our system of care, ensuring that no one has to navigate these challenges alone.”

Dr. Bonnie Henry, provincial health officer, said: “This public-health emergency continues to challenge us in communities throughout British Columbia in unprecedented ways.

“Recovery is a complex journey, and it is different for everyone. People who use drugs come from all walks of life in all parts of this province. That diversity is also reflected in why people use drugs in the first place. For many, it is to deal with pain, physical, emotional and psychological pain often stemming from previous trauma.

“But we also know the effects of anti-Indigenous racism and the intergenerational trauma from colonial practices have led to disproportionate impacts on First Nations, Inuit and Métis people in B.C.

“We have learned that recovery is a process; and for most people it is not a linear process, but one that is defined by the person. And while abstinence may be a feature for many, the process can involve stability and living a full and meaningful life without abstinence.

“We will continue to focus on this as a public-health emergency – driven by the increasing toxicity and unpredictability of the unregulated drug supply and are committed to reducing the stigma and shame that keep people isolated and alone.

“We must continue to have courage and to be innovative in our approach to this public-health crisis that continues taking the lives of our friends and families in B.C. daily.”

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