Health Minister Terry Lake.

Fraser youth detox beds plunged but set to rebound

Health Minister Terry Lake rejects NDP criticism of government response to deadly drug overdose crisis

Health Minister Terry Lake is dismissing NDP accusations that the B.C. government allowed the number of youth addiction beds to plummet in Fraser Health over the past three years as fatal drug overdoses began to spike.

The NDP released government records obtained through freedom of information showing a 25 per cent drop in youth substance use beds between 2013 and March of 2016. The drop was worst in Fraser, where the number of available youth addiction beds fell more than 50 per cent over the same period, from 22 to 10 beds.

NDP mental health critic Sue Hammell said the province should have realized overdose deaths were climbing in those years and taken swifter action, rather than waiting until the eve of the next provincial election to try to deliver on a 2013 campaign promise to add 500 addiction beds by 2017.

RELATED: B.C.’s drug overdose death toll climbs to 488

“They knew the numbers were increasing – that’s why they promised an increased number of beds,” Hammell said.

As of the end of August, 488 B.C. residents had died from fatal illicit drug overdoses and the death toll could top 700 by the end of the year.

“This is the equivalent of two 747s crashing at the airport,” Hammell said. “It’s a huge number of lives being lost to addiction and overdoses and we’re cutting the services to youth. It doesn’t make sense.”

But Lake said Fraser lost 11 beds because a youth substance use facility in Keremeos jointly used by Fraser and Vancouver Coastal Health had to be closed due to issues with the operator.

Those 22 beds will come back on stream when the Keremeos facility reopens in 2017, he said, along with other planned increases, including a new 10-bed youth stabilization unit at Surrey Memorial Hospital.

Lake said by the end of 2017, B.C. will have 102 mental health beds and 195 substance use beds for young people up to age 25.

By the end of 2017, Fraser Health will have 42 substance use beds for young people, he said, up from 22 in 2012.

Lake said the overdose death crisis was not apparent a couple of years ago and only was declared a public health emergency this April.

He also rejected suggestions the B.C. government has not acted decisively, pointing to its task force and its efforts to make naloxone much more widely available to reverse opioid overdoses.

“We have saved hundreds of lives,” Lake said. “That seems to be missing in this discussion. Yes we have 400 people who have died. But if we hadn’t acted quickly and done what we had done, we would have lost hundreds more.”

There have been 172 drug overdose deaths as of the end of August in the Fraser region.

Across B.C., there have been six overdose deaths so far this year of victims aged 10 to 18, and another 121 aged 19 to 29.

Just Posted

Friends of ‘Mac’ rally to fund young family left behind by former martial arts teacher in Surrey

‘He’s well loved,’ says operator of Fraser Heights academy where Mackenzie MacWilliams studied, worked

Surrey burglar loses appeal on Hook & Ladder break-in conviction

The case centred on a Jan. 3, 2016 break-in at the Newton pub

Police food drive to help feed North Delta kids

Donations collected will go support the Rotary Club’s Starfish Pack program

Bus driver assault in Vancouver once again raises safety concerns

A 49-year-old Surrey man was released on a promise to appear in court. No charge has been laid

‘Inventive ideas’ sought soon for Surrey One Act Festival, set to return to Whalley stage

Also planned by Royal Canadian Theatre Company is a Five Minute Play Writing Challenge

VIDEO: Killer whales hunt for seals in Vancouver harbour

Bigg’s killer whales feed on marine mammals like seals, sea lions, dolphins and even other whales

VIDEO: B.C.’s waving granny gets incredible send-off from school kids

Tinney Davidson has been waving at students on their way to school for over 11 years, but is moving in a month

Struggling B.C. adoption agency elects new board that intends to keep it open

The previous board announced that Choices would close May 31

Woman, 60, charged in connection to thefts at YVR

RCMP believe the foreign national is part of a larger organized theft group

Vancouver man, 19, charged in human trafficking case involving teen girl

The 16-year-old girl was reported missing and later discovered in Vancouver

Worst 10 bus routes in Metro Vancouver for rider complaints

TransLink releases list, with Route 319 at the top

VIDEO: Highway One to be widened east to 264th Street in Fraser Valley

The $235 million project includes upgrades to overpasses and a rail bridge

Most Read