Stagger distribution of welfare cheques to ease 911 overload, says police chief

published on February 28, 2018 by Katie DeRosa in Times Colonist

Police, firefighters and paramedics are so overwhelmed with drug-related 911 calls in the days after welfare cheques are issued that Victoria’s police chief wants the province to consider staggering distribution of the cheques throughout the month.

“Generally speaking, we see a spike during the evening of welfare Wednesday and the day or two after of overdose calls, disturbances, drug activity occurring. Sometimes someone has been defrauded or robbed,” Police Chief Del Manak told the Times Colonist.

“A lot of it has to do with addictions and over consumption of alcohol and drug use.”

Manak outlined the problem in a Feb. 22 letter to Sheila Taylor, deputy minister of social development and poverty reduction.

The spike in calls “taxes emergency service resources, many of whom are already operating at or beyond capacity,” Manak wrote.

He acknowledged that changes to the welfare system could be costly and complex, but urged Taylor to consider a pilot project in a B.C. community.

“I just want to step back and make sure the government has considered whether there is a benefit to re-looking at how the cheques are distributed,” Manak said.

“I want to have the discussion: ‘Are you aware that by doing this, it puts a lot of downward pressure on your first responders?’ ”

Manak did not have specific statistics on calls in the days after cheque day, but said it’s “a significant increase.”

Cameron Eby, president of the union that represents B.C. paramedics and emergency dispatchers, said there’s a noticeable spike in overdose calls in the days after distribution of income assistance cheques, typically on the last Wednesday of every month. “It does put an additional strain on paramedic workload.”

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