Kamloops council to consider motion urging feds to decriminalize illicit drugs | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Kamloops council to consider motion urging feds to decriminalize illicit drugs

In the midst of an opioid crisis and Kamloops experiencing a surge in overdose deaths in recent months, City councillors will be considering a motion urging the federal government to develop a nation-wide drug plan that pursues options like decriminalizing illicit drugs.

Councillors Dale Bass, Sadie Hunter and Kathy Sinclair are asking their fellow politicians to pass a motion to urge the Government of Canada to declare the overdose crisis as a national public health emergency and seek input from people most affected to develop a national overdose action plan.

READ MORE: Kamloops and Kelowna overdose death tolls continue surge

Councillors are urging the federal government to include “comprehensive supports and full consideration of reforms that other countries have used to significantly reduce drug-related fatalities and stigma, such as legal regulation of illicit drugs to ensure safe supply of pharmaceutical alternatives to toxic street drugs, and decriminalization for personal use,” according to a report going to council next week.

Councillors will also be asked to send the motion to other B.C. municipalities in an effort to can urge the federal government to address the opioid crisis.

The report said the opioid crisis is one of the largest public health emergencies of our lifetime and "other countries have significantly reduced drug-related deaths with reforms such as legal regulation of illicit drugs to ensure safe supply and decriminalization for personal use."

The Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police has stated it agrees with evidence that suggests decriminalization for simple possession as an effective way to improve public safety in relation to substance use, causing the Federal Health Minister to indicate the government is now “deliberating,” according to the report.

The motion will be presented during the regular live-streamed council meeting, Dec. 15.

B.C.’s opioid crisis has only been exacerbated by the pandemic. Jurisdictions across Canada have reported an increase in overdose deaths tied to opioids.

READ MORE: Pandemic aggravates opioid crisis as overdoses rise and services fall out of reach

In October 2020, there were 162 suspected illicit drug toxicity deaths in B.C. This represents a 116% increase over the number of deaths seen last October (75) and a 26% increase over the number of deaths seen in September 2020 (129), according to the coroner’s latest report on illicit drug deaths.

In the Thompson Cariboo region, 83 deaths have been reported in 2020, more than a 50% increase compared to 2019, which recorded 40 deaths related to illicit drug use.

In the summer, B.C.’s provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said recent numbers show it's time to adopt a medically empathetic model.

"The things we need to consider are not just cost to the healthcare system but costs to society," Dr. Henry said. "We look at things like potential years of life lost... we're talking about mostly young people, people in their 30s and 40s, and some younger... but also the potential loss to our communities, our families, our society."

In the weeks that followed, Dr. Henry issued a public health order to allow registered nurses in B.C. to prescribe safer options as alternatives to toxic street drugs. The aim was to separate more people from the “poisoned street drug supply,” leading to saving lives while providing opportunities for ongoing care.

“Giving physicians and nurse practitioners the ability to prescribe safer pharmaceutical alternatives has been critical to saving lives and linking more people to treatment and other health and social services,” Dr. Henry said at the time.

While the last few months saw a decline in overdose deaths, rates have increased in October, according to the coroner’s report.

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