COVID-19 is not the only public health emergency that British Columbia is facing. This health crisis has persisted in our communities even before the current pandemic has taken — and continues to take — a horrific toll on the lives of people in cities and towns throughout the province.
I am talking about the overdose crisis.
The latest illicit drug overdose report by the Coroners’ Service reveals that this crisis shows no sign of improving, as July 2021 was B.C.’s second deadliest month of illicit drug toxicity deaths ever recorded.
The people of the Peace Region know the tragic toll this is taking on our communities all too well, as Fort St. John continues to have some of the highest per-capita overdose death rates in the province.
It’s absolutely heartbreaking that month-after-month the signs are there that we are facing a crisis and losing lives because of it, and yet John Horgan’s NDP keeps saying that combating this public health emergency is a top priority for them. Actions speak louder than words, and we need action to back up this claim now.
For months, the Official Opposition has been calling for the NDP government to activate the Select Standing Committee on Health so we can take an all-party, public approach to tackle the mental health and addictions issues faced by countless British Columbians.
Sadly, this call continues to be ignored.
More recently, British Columbians were shocked to learn that in the midst of this crisis, John Horgan cut funding to police departments for life-saving naloxone kits, which are essential for frontline emergency workers who are often the first on the scene to respond to an overdose.
Naloxone kits save lives and having a healthcare system with the capacity to help those suffering from an overdose also saves lives.
The NDP have done little to address the hospital staffing crisis here in the North, which is now reaching a critical point. The ICU at Fort St. John Hospital has been closed since June 2020, because of continual staffing shortages, with patients being transferred to Prince George, and this situation has only been worsened by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
When people in crisis can’t find a hospital bed or ICU unit ready to take them, it could be a matter of life and death.
We can no longer accept words and empty promises — we need action today.
The NDP needs to urgently commit to a plan for a comprehensive mental health and addictions system and conduct a complete audit of Northern Health to identify and address the staffing shortages plaguing our hospitals.
People facing addiction in our province can’t afford for this Premier or the Minister of Mental Health and Addictions to wait to take this worsening crisis seriously.
Dan Davies is the MLA for Peace River-North