Dean Anderson holds up a sign before a march on the first National Day of Action to draw attention to the opioid overdose epidemic, in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver, B.C. in 2017. Currently, B.C.’s Select Standing Committee on Health is seeking public input on the crisis. Deadline is Aug. 5. (The Canadian Press/Darryl Dyck)

Dean Anderson holds up a sign before a march on the first National Day of Action to draw attention to the opioid overdose epidemic, in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver, B.C. in 2017. Currently, B.C.’s Select Standing Committee on Health is seeking public input on the crisis. Deadline is Aug. 5. (The Canadian Press/Darryl Dyck)

Public input sought as committee examines B.C.’s toxic drug crisis

White Rock MLA among 10 members of Standing Committee on Health

If you have special insight into the ongoing toxic drug and overdose crisis, B.C.’s Select Standing Committee on Health would like to hear from you.

British Columbians are invited to provide written comments before Friday, Aug. 5 at 3 p.m.

The 10-member committee, which includes among its ranks members of B.C.’s NDP, Liberal and Green parties, formed in early April and began holding public hearings in May. Its report is due Nov. 2.

Surrey-White Rock MLA Trevor Halford, Official Opposition critic for Mental Health and Addictions, is among three BC Liberal members with a seat on the committee.

According to a release issued this week, members will continue to hear from organizations and individuals, including government representatives, public health officials, experts, people with lived and living experience and other stakeholders.

Halford said the opposition endorses the recommendations of the BC Coroners Service panel review of ‘illicit drug toxicity deaths’ submitted to BC’s chief coroner in March.

Main recommendations from the review were ensuring a safer drug supply to those at risk of dying from the toxic illicit drug supply; to develop a 30/60/90-day illicit drug toxicity action plan with ongoing monitoring; and to establish an evidence-based continuum of care among regional health authorities and health system partners.

“There were strong recommendations but it was disappointing that the government didn’t act on them,” Halford said. “That’s why we fought so hard for this standing committee.”

He said there is a lot of work that needs to be done to establish an integrated approach as soon as possible.

“Addictions can’t wait,” he said. “We’re losing an average of six people a day. We need to be looking at every option we have – there’s no one silver bullet that will help.

“These aren’t just numbers – they’re human lives.”

Part of the approach has to be making sure that efforts to meet the crisis aren’t adding to the stigma of addiction, Halford said.

“There is a story for every single person who is involved in this and many have undergone incredible hardships in their lives,” he said. “We need to approach this in a humane and respectful way.”

Halford added that any solution to the problem must include making sure that “people have a path to recovery.”

“They need to have access to recovery and treatment right away and we need to make sure that that treatment is funded adequately,” he said.

The multi-party committee indicates that “everybody invested in this understands the tragedies that are happening every day,” he said.

Overdose and toxic drug deaths aren’t simply confined to city streets, he said, but are also happening in private homes and basement suites.

“It’s taking place in every suburb, every community, every demographic.”

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“This overdose crisis has been tragic for so many individuals, families and front-line workers in British Columbia,” said Vancouver-Hastings NDP MLA Niki Sharma, committee chair.

“This committee wants to ensure that all British Columbians have an opportunity to share their perspectives on the response to this crisis. Their input will be critical to forming our recommendations to government.”

Opposition leader Shirley Bond, MLA for Prince George-Valemount, and deputy chair of the committee, said: “Recognizing the urgency of the overdose crisis, the committee began its work immediately in order to better understand the complex issues that have led to the current situation in our province.”

Other committee members are:

• Pam Alexis (Abbotsford-Mission, NDP);

• Susie Chant (North Vancouver-Seymour, NDP);

• Dan Davies (Peace River North, Liberal);

• Sonia Furstenau (Cowichan Valley, Green);

• Ronna-Rae Leonard (Courtenay-Comox, NDP);

• Doug Routley (Nanaimo-North Cowichan, NDP); and

• Mike Starchuk (Surrey-Cloverdale, NDP).

For details on the consultation and how to participate, visit the committee’s website: http://www.leg.bc.ca/cmt/health or contact the Parliamentary Committees Office by email: healthcommittee@leg.bc.ca

Call (250) 356-2933 or 1-877-428-8337 (toll-free in B.C.).

B.C. overdosesBC politicsoverdose crisis