In case you missed it, this past edition of Okanagan Saturday featured excerpts from an interview with B.C. Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson.
The parts concerning approaches to treating drug addictions are worth repeating.
Wilkinson, who’s both a doctor and lawyer, says addiction ought to be treated as a medical condition with an end goal of getting people off drugs.
That’s in contrast, he says, to the current NDP provincial government approach, which has “decided that housing and harm reduction are all they really need to do.”
As we’ve seen in Kelowna and most other places in the province, that strategy doesn’t seem to have produced any noticeable results.
There were 15 deaths in Kelowna for the first half of the year, nine in Penticton, 19 in Kamloops and 11 in Prince George.
Vancouver was, of course, No. 1, with 144 deaths.
Kelowna has the seventh worse death record while Penticton was 14th.
Penticton is on pace to top the 15 recorded in all of 2018.
Last year in Kelowna, there were 55 drug deaths.
Between Vancouver and Kelowna were Surrey (72), Victoria (20), Abbotsford (24), Burnaby and Kamloops (19).
Nanaimo followed Kelowna with 11.
And don’t forget, it was during the 18-month period ending in June that Interior Health ordered one million syringes for distribution to addicts.
It was also during that period B.C. Housing confirmed it will provide a safe-consumption site in the 62-unit residential development that’s almost ready to open on Winnipeg Street in Penticton.
We understand the overarching goal of harm reduction is to keep addicts alive long enough with things like clean needles – and even clean drugs, in some places – to get them into treatment.
Wilkinson, while not giving specifics, seems to be advocating for more of an abstinence-based approach.
“There’s a very small cohort of people who will be drug dependent their whole lives, and that needs to be recognized and dealt with,” he says.
“But there’s a huge percentage of people who can get off drugs. Housing’s part of that. But it’s only the first step of many.
“The NDP seem to think putting people in a box is good enough and they can walk away. We can see in all our communities that that approach is not working. We cannot consign people to lifelong addiction.”
We couldn’t agree more and look forward to hearing more details about what the Liberals will do differently next time should they find themselves in power once again in Victoria.
After all, it was on the Liberals’ last watch that the opioid crisis became a crisis.