Health Minister on the ‘desperate fight against a public health crisis’

published on December 21, 2016 in Merritt Herald

Health Minister Terry Lake and Kamloops-North Thompson MLA Terry Lake has posted on his Facebook page his thoughts on the overdose crisis gripping the province.

With overdoses claiming 755 lives in B.C. “” and 32 in Kamloops “” to the end of November, and with November setting a record for such deaths in a month provincewide (128), Lake has penned his thoughts on what he calls ” desperate fight against a public health crisis.”

“I rarely use my Facebook page to talk about anything political, but we are in the midst of a desperate fight against a public health crisis and I need to share my thoughts and experiences.

“I have spent more than a year, first noting a sizeable increase in the number of illicit drug overdoses in British Columbia, and then realizing that this was something unprecedented in our province’s history “” the worst epidemic in modern times. At the height of the HIV/AIDS crisis, we were losing one life a day. Illicit drugs, mostly synthetic opioids like fentanyl and carfentil, are claiming four lives every single day.

“I have spent hours upon hours reading about illicit drugs, addiction, recovery and many more hours consulting experts in these fields. This I know “” there are no simple solutions. That is not an excuse. It is a realization that human behaviour and, indeed the human brain, is very complicated.

“Despite the fact 21 states in America have drug overdose death rates higher than ours, we have taken measures that are far beyond any others on this continent. B.C. is the only jurisdiction with supervised consumption sites and the first to implement overdose-prevention sites. We have widespread access to naloxone “” a life-saving antidote to opiates and the largest centre of drug addiction research and training in North America.

“We are expanding, as quickly as possible, access to treatment for those who are ready to receive it. Treating addiction is not as simple as fixing a broken leg or even opening clogged cardiac arteries. We cannot order people into treatment and history has proven that we cannot effectively choke off the supply of illicit drugs.

“What we as a society can do is try to keep people alive when they are struggling with addiction and together continuously work to improve the social determinants of health like education, economic opportunities and reconciliation of historic wrongs to indigenous people.

“I have read with dismay e-mails, comments and letters to the editor that question why we are spending money on ‘addicts’ when other health needs are not fully met. I understand why these comments are made because part of me shares the frustration of being unable to ‘fix’ a problem that has haunted human society for a very long time. I remind myself though, that we treat lifelong smokers for lung cancer, speeding drivers when they suffer a crash and those who ignore diet and exercise when heart disease takes its toll.

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