A harm reduction advocate says the recent report from Dr. Bonnie Henry proposing an expansion of safer supply to include more kinds of illicit drugs is a positive step forward.
However, Leslie McBain of Moms Stop the Harm says more needs to be done to get people into the programs being offered and to expand services.
There are an estimated 115,000 people known to have Opioid Use Disorder (OUD) in the province.
Of that number, McBain says there are a few thousand users that have been able to access the programs available, and they report very positive results.
She says substance users who have been helped say their lives are more stable, they do not need to commit petty crimes for money to buy drugs, and some are going for treatment.
However, McBain says the number of outreach programs is inadequate and it needs to be addressed.
She says the projects that currently exist need to be broadened and enlarged to meet the need.
McBain says a big problem in reaching out to the people who need help is that they don’t trust the system and that makes engaging with them difficult.
“Some people don’t even reach out to the system to get treatment that may be available to them because they are just not trusting of a system that just hasn’t supported them for all these decades.”
McBain stresses that there is a need for greater education of the public and in schools about the causes of addiction.
In her report, Dr. Henry found that only 4,331 BC opioid users are safer supply recipients.
The report adds that it is largely limited to people who are already connected to the healthcare system, which excludes at risk populations facing marginalization.
The safer supply programs often exclude people who do not use opioids daily, and many people at risk of drug poisoning are not eligible.
McBain says an average of seven people die each day in BC from the tainted and toxic illicit supply of drugs available on the streets.
“These are preventable deaths,” McBail says, “and we need to save the lives of people who use drugs.”
She says whether you call it “pharmaceutical alternatives, safer supply, legal regulated supply.” it’s the answer to fill the gap in the things the government says are being done to save the lives of people who use drugs.