B.C. Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson and Official Opposition Critic for Mental Health and Addictions Jane Thornthwaite are calling on John Horgan and the NDP government to do more to tackle the opioid crisis after news broke that May was the deadliest month in the province’s history for illicit drug deaths.
“Just last month, 170 British Columbians died from opioid overdoses. This crisis is creating misery for families and communities in every corner of the province and it’s more urgent than ever that government takes major steps to reverse this tragic epidemic,” said Wilkinson on Tuesday. “Saving lives from overdoses is vital, but it’s only part of the solution. This pandemic has left people without supports who are suffering alone. We need to prevent overdoses and invest in treatment and recovery options as well as increased mental health supports.”
It is clear that the effects of isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic are exacerbating the existing mental health and addictions problems that far too many British Columbians are facing, often alone. Wilkinson and Thornthwaite sent a letter to the Premier on Tuesday calling on the government to take a number of urgent steps:
- B.C. desperately needs a Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions properly equipped to handle this issue – currently it is the Ministry with the smallest annual budget – less than the sum spent by the Ministry of Health every four hours.
- B.C. needs a prescription drug monitoring program to help prevent cases of addiction in the first place.
- The government must fund proper scientific clinical trials related to the safe supply program to determine what actually works – just like any other medical intervention, it must be properly and publicly assessed and disclosed to scientific standards.
- People who are addicted need a pathway to recovery — something that Alberta spends $180 million per year on and something that the NDP government spends almost nothing on.
“This issue touches every community and real steps need to be urgently taken to bring this crisis to an end,” added Thornthwaite. “More than ever, the B.C. government needs to step up its response to this crisis, repair the gaps in the system exposed by the pandemic, and invest in further treatment and recovery options. The heartbreak and death must stop.”