KAMLOOPS — Well, maybe it’s not quite as bad as that, but it’s pretty close. I cannot believe that we are not moving more quickly in dealing with the incidence of drug overdoses and deaths, particularly relating to the proliferation of fentanyl in the drug community. While overdose statistics are going through the roof, the federal government still hasn’t declared a health emergency. The B.C. government is dealing with the problem quickly, but federal help is necessary to really apply the measures needed to combat the issue. Last week, B.C. incurred the highest number of overdose-related calls ever to 9-1-1. We have had 622 deaths to the end of October. Another 338 deaths occurred in Alberta. B.C. declared a health emergency earlier this year and urged Ottawa to do the same, but the best the feds have been able to do is to create a task force to work with the Chinese to stop the flow of fentanyl to North American shores. I don’t even want to draw comparisons as to how effective that will be. But that’s the best we can do? Oh, and next spring, we may start to study the whole problem. What a load of crap. We need federal funds to help. This is a disaster. While the province is providing naloxone kits to paramedics, and even spray to police officers who may come across something in the streets, while Emergency Health Services is establishing support units in high drug areas, and putting paramedics on bikes and ATV’s to access high incident sites, Ottawa is worried more about handing out flags to celebrate our 150th birthday next year.
I understand that health emergencies to combat spread of a disease are a little different than the drug crisis, But I am reminded that in the not too distant past, we had a health emergency with SARS. 44 people died. We had a swine flu epidemic where 448 people died. The government responded quickly and efficiently to these crises. This year, in the two Western provinces alone, we had almost 1,000 deaths from drug overdoses and we don’t seem to think that’s a crisis? What will it take?
Fentanyl is not the only reason for all these deaths. But it is a major contributor. And there are even more powerful additives hitting the streets that will make things worse.
It is time for Ottawa to get involved. They know the problem is there. The statistics show its severity. Now it’s time for action. The problem is much bigger than individual provinces. We must deal with this as a nation, before it gets totally out of hand. Time is fast running out. The feds are capable of mobilizing resources on a much larger scale than individual provinces. And while federal Ministers seemed to take offense at a conference last week on the issue, when they were accused of not moving quickly enough, there is no evidence to indicate they are paying anything more than lip service to what is fast becoming a significant crisis right across the country.