B.C. ELECTION 2017: Breaking down each party's response to overdose crisis | Kelowna News | iNFOnews

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B.C. ELECTION 2017: Breaking down each party's response to overdose crisis

Thompson-Okanagan residents Tyler Leinweber (top left), Adam Pouliot (top right), Ryan Pinneo (bottom left) and Tyler Laybolt (bottom right) all died from fentanyl overdoses in 2016.
April 25, 2017 - 4:37 PM

THOMPSON-OKANAGAN – As Interior residents continue to die from overdose at a record pace, the B.C. Liberals, the B.C. NDP and the B.C. Greens have released their list of priorities in the upcoming provincial election – and each take a different approach to the crisis.

Since fentanyl first started appearing on the streets in the Thompson-Okanagan, it has quickly become perhaps the greatest issue in our communities. Beating addiction in the Interior is harder than you think, but it has become a reality for every demographic, including mothers, fathers and teenagers. Some who died were actively trying to get help.

The third-highest number of illicit drug deaths in a single month was recorded just last month showing this crisis isn't going away and the Coroners Service says 120 people died across the province last month due to illicit drugs. That’s an average of nearly four deaths per day.

The B.C. Liberals platform includes several strategies intended to combat the opioid crisis, including investing $100 million to fund a study of the problem. They also promise to establish a B.C. Centre on Substance Use, increase access for opioid substitute treatments like suboxone, a 500-bed commitment and $10 million for residential and intensive out-patient recovery services, 30,000 free naloxone kits, and $165 million for youth mental health services.

This will include a youth service centre in Kelowna managed by Foundry. As the incumbent government, it must be noted that the Liberals made the 500-bed commitment before and didn't attain near those numbers. 

The B.C. Greens platform includes a focus on mental health and addictions, which they say goes hand-in-hand with addiction.

Their platform says under the current flawed system, adults with severe needs, including addictions, are unable to get adequate access to adult tertiary care. It estimates fewer than 20 per cent of the 1.2 million Canadian children and youth affected by mental illness will get appropriate treatment, decries limited resources for early detection in schools and calls programming for youth with mental illness transitioning into adulthood “fragmented.”

If elected they promise to establish a ministry responsible for mental health and addictions, allocate $80 million to fund early intervention, youth mental health initiatives, supervised injection sites and community-based centres for mental health and rehabilitation.

And finally, “develop an immediate response to the fentanyl crisis based on successful programs in Europe that invest in treatment on demand, drug substitution, early-warning monitoring systems, and coordinated response.

The B.C. NDP platform includes the heading “Mental health and addiction services,” which accuses the Liberals of “outsourcing much of our mental health and addictions services in the most expensive way possible.”

This inefficiency, they say, creates a revolving door of acute care hospital visits and “interactions with police.”

A key component of the NDP platform is an “Ask Once, Get Help Fast” approach.

“When people are in crisis, they need immediate help. No one should be left waiting for months for the most basic of mental health services,” the platform reads.

To do this they want to ensure students have access to specially trained adolescent mental health professionals within the school system and to institute evidence-based treatment strategies in coordination with non-profit and private care providers.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Adam Proskiw or call 250-718-0428 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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