Jail is no place for drug users, B.C. health officer says - InfoNews

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Jail is no place for drug users, B.C. health officer says

Keeping drug users out of jail may save lives.
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April 24, 2019 - 11:15 AM

KELOWNA - It’s time to stop throwing people in jail for doing drugs, B.C.’s provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry contends in a new report to the provincial government.

“It (jail) is not stopping drug use,” she said at a news conference in Victoria today, April 24. “Indeed, drug use has been increasing, regardless of the criminalization regime we are under.”

She stressed that she is not calling for the legalization of opioid drugs that have led to the deaths of thousands of B.C. residents in the past three years since a provincial health emergency was called. That includes hundreds in the Interior.

Instead, she’s calling for alternatives to filing criminal charges or locking up users.

There’s two ways of doing that, she said.

One is to amend the provincial Police Act to require police forces in B.C. to not charge people with simple possession of these drugs. The other is to look at diverting people into treatment or to take an “administrative” approach. That’s the kind of thing that’s been done with roadside suspensions for impaired driving rather than filing criminal charges.

While focusing on decriminalization of the drug users, she stressed that's just one of many strategies needed to deal with the opioid epidemic in B.C. There is also a huge need for massive increases in funding for treatment as well as working to decrease the stigma attached to drug addiction, she said.

Her report is called: Stopping the Harm: Decriminalization of People Who Use Drugs in BC and will be available here.

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