This June, 175 people died due to illicit drugs, making it the worst month for overdose deaths in B.C history. The Cowichan Valley has been particularly hard hit by the opioid crisis, something that has placed a tremendous strain on our community. However, changes are coming; our region has been announced as the recipient for federal and provincial funding for a safe supply pilot project, in partnership with Island Health.
While my NDP colleagues and I continue to fight for national pharmacare, which would provide critical medication, such as inhalers and insulin, to all Canadians free of charge, I am still deeply pleased to see this short-term health project being announced. Providing a safe supply of hydromorphone to drug users who have not responded to other forms of treatment will undoubtedly save lives, and will reduce the impact of the illicit drug trade on our community. In providing a safe supply of pharmaceutical-grade opioids, we will create opportunities for those dealing with addiction to engage with healthcare professionals, reduce the number of overdose calls that our first responders make, eliminate opportunities for those who profit off the trade of illicit drugs, and above all, save the lives of some of our community’s more vulnerable members.
Drug usage already exists within our community. Some community members, beloved neighbours, fathers, mothers, children, and friends, are struggling with addiction, a serious health condition which has profound ill-effects. Providing these community members with a safe supply is not encouraging drug usage, but rather, is recognizing that this is a problem that exists, and that in order for us as a community to solve the opioids crisis, we must first work to end reliance on illicit street drugs and build support networks for those struggling with addiction. Ignoring the problem of the opioid crisis and hoping it goes away won’t solve anything; as community leaders, we need to step up and work towards finding innovative solutions to this health crisis, even if sometimes those solutions can initially seem counter-intuitive.
Preventing overdose deaths is the first step towards addressing the opioids crisis and the impacts of addiction. Harm reduction saves lives, and I am truly grateful that our riding has been selected for this pilot project. In June of 2020, 175 individuals died due to overdoses. Every one of those deaths was preventable, and I am hopeful that together, our community will be able to reach a point where such a tragic loss of life is no longer an issue.