WITH the number of overdose deaths climbing to an all-time high, the Official Opposition is calling on the NDP to stop tinkering around the edges.
“Every month we get the same formulaic response from the NDP and it’s just not good enough for the families who continue to lose loved ones,” says Surrey-White Rock MLA Trevor Halford, Opposition Critic for Mental Health and Addictions. “The minister will say what a tragedy it is, express sadness and hope things get better. Nice words aren’t enough. We need action, concerted and focused action, that attacks the problem — not empty words.”
The report from the coroner’s office shows an appalling trend: October had the highest number of deaths ever in one month. The 1,782 suspected illicit drug toxicity deaths between January and October 2021 are the highest ever recorded in a calendar year, and the number of deaths in October equates to about 6.5 lives lost per day.
Halford notes the Ministry of Mental Health and Addiction has a budget smaller than the Premier’s Office, with most of it going to staffing and not programs, which explains the lack of substantive progress. Furthermore, for months the BC Liberal Caucus has been calling for the Select Standing Committee on Health to be activated so that all parties can work together on immediate actions to prevent further tragedy, but the Premier has yet to respond directly to the request.
“This is a second-term government that so far, has only managed to write a strongly-worded letter to Ottawa as it continues to apply bandages onto gaping wounds,” says Halford. “This government’s commitment to rhetoric is unsurpassed, but its commitment to any tangible steps is dreadful. This isn’t complicated or partisan. We’ve asked the NDP, along with the Greens, to work together to come up with a plan that works but the NDP has repeatedly said no, and the result is ever-rising deaths.”
Ahead of today’s numbers, this week the NDP announced that in 2020, 105 new beds were opened and only 47 of those were new spaces. In contrast, Alberta has funded 8,000 addiction treatment beds since 2019 and eliminated the cost barriers for treatment.
“This shows the difference between a minister whose job seems to be communicating the perception of action, and one that is there to provide results that make a big difference in the lives of people living with addiction and mental health challenges,” says Halford. “It’s time for the NDP to say yes to more beds that reflect the scale of the problem, it’s time for the NDP to say yes to funding those programs, and it’s time for the NDP to say yes to ensuring people who need counselling get it, so they don’t turn to drugs to numb the pain.”
“We’re losing more than six people a day, and others are mired in addiction. It’s time for the NDP to stop the talk and start walking the walk.”