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Mental Health

Comments on the Representative for Children and Youth Report

Weaver Comments on the Representative for Children and Youth Report
For immediate release
February 6th, 2017

VICTORIA B.C. – Today’s report by the Representative for Children and Youth, “Broken Promises: Alex’s Story”, tells the story of Alex, a youth under the care of the Ministry of Children and Family Development who took his own life at age 18.

“The report speaks clearly of the gravity of the Ministry of Children and Family Development’s failure to provide basic supports, in keeping with their duty under the law,” says Andrew Weaver, MLA for Oak Bay – Gordon Head. “The Ministry denied Alex the chance to be taken care of by his extended family, and failed to provide him with desperately needed mental health services or the chance to find a meaningful connection to his culture.”

“It makes me sick to read that the government often referenced his ‘challenging behaviour’ as they cycled him through 17 placements, as if they were not complicit and aggravating all the challenges he faced.”

“That an abused and neglected 18-year old spent the last 49 days of his life in a hotel room, mostly alone, while the government waited for him to age out of care at age 19, is a horrific testament to the ways in which the Ministry is failing in its duty to protect and care for our most vulnerable children in BC”.

“The government’s subsequent news release claiming they intend to follow the report’s recommendations strikes me as horribly self congratulatory, considering many of the recommendations centre around the ministry neglecting to follow their own legislation to begin with. This isn’t something they should be telling us they plan to do, it has been their legal and moral responsibility to do so from the beginning.”

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Media contact
Mat Wright, Press Secretary
+1 250-216-3382 | mat.wright@leg.bc.ca

Time for funding on home and mental health care

Time for funding on home and mental health care
For immediate release
January 30, 2017

VICTORIA B.C. – Home care and mental health are at a crisis point in B.C. and the provincial government continues to play politics with the wellbeing of British Columbians.

“The federal government has put new money on the table for mental health services and home health care,” said Andrew Weaver, MLA for Oak Bay – Gordon Head. “Rather than sitting down and negotiating a deal like Saskatchewan, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador, and the three territories have, British Columbia is watching the health care money be given away.”

Since Health Accord negotiations between the provinces and federal government broke down in December, four other provinces and three territories have since returned to the table and have reached bilateral funding agreements. Last week, Saskatchewan became the fourth province to reach a bilateral deal with the federal government on health care transfers. British Columbia has not resumed negotiations.

“Island Health is struggling with a budget deficit of between $10-million and $12-million dollars and our hospitals, designed to deal with acute care, are being used inefficiently for chronic care for which the federal home care money is targeted,” said Weaver, Leader of the B.C. Green Party.

“We are struggling to respond reactively to the fentanyl crisis, an approach that has come with a staggeringly horrific human cost. We need to be proactively supporting mental health and recovery services for which, once again, Federal money is already being offered.”

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Media contact
Mat Wright, Press Secretary
+1 250-216-3382 | mat.wright@leg.bc.ca

Touring Vancouver’s downtown east side to learn more about the ongoing opioid overdose crisis

Today I visited Vancouver’s downtown east side to learn more about the overdose crisis plaguing British Columbia.

Earlier in the day, shocking statistics were released by the B.C. Coroners’ Service. Over the period January 1 to November 30 2016, there have been 755 overdose deaths in British Columbia with 128 of those fatalities occurring in November. Year-to-date statistics reveal a 70% increase from last year.

Those following my blog will know that we have written previously on this subject. On December 2 we outlined some of the steps that individuals could take if they encounter someone experiencing an opioid overdose. On December 15, we provided a more comprehensive analysis of the problem, and pointed out the need for a comprehensive, proactive approach to dealing with it.

During our tour today, Jonina Campbell, the BC Green candidate for New Westminster in the upcoming provincial election, and I were profoundly moved by what we experienced and the stories we heard. As Jonina noted in the statement we released after our tour (reproduced below), we witnessed “a grassroots effort of downtown eastside community members who have come together, because it is their friends and family who are suffering and dying.”

Thank you to Sarah Blyth, who is working with the Overdose Prevention Society, for taking the time to tour us around the downtown east side and educating us on the overdose crisis.

Later in the day I appeared on CBC’s On the Coast (starting at the 52:48 mark) in an attempt to convey what we learned from our visit.


Media Statement


Media Statement, Dec. 19, 2016
Statements from Andrew Weaver and Jonina Campbell following tour of pop-up safe injection site in downtown east side
For immediate release

VANCOUVER B.C. – B.C. Green Party leader Andrew Weaver and New Westminster candidate Jonina Campbell released the following statements after touring a pop-up safe injection site near East Hastings and Columbia streets in Vancouver:

“I have been deeply moved by the dedication and commitment of those working at Vancouver’s pop-up safe injection sites – volunteers who are working with few resources to save lives that would otherwise likely be lost,” Weaver said. “Sarah Blyth, Anne Livingston and others who have acted so selflessly are to be commended for taking action in an incredibly desperate situation.

“Today, the B.C. Coroners Service reported that a staggering 755 people died from illicit drug use from January 1 to November 30 this year. The opioid crisis is out of control. Federal Health Minister Jane Philpott needs to immediately declare a national health emergency, which would give chief medical officers the power to deal with this crisis as a health issue. It is also critical that the federal government immediately repeal aspects of the Harper-era Bill C-2 that make it extremely difficult for cities to open safe-injection facilities like Vancouver’s InSite. Community members have been forced to pull together scarce resources to provide life-saving services on their own. It is unconscionable that our communities are barred from responding with the most effective, life-saving measures. The consequences are simple – the more we dither, the more people die.”

“The approach of the past, to treat drug use as a criminal issue, does not work. Drug use is a public health issue. Lack of treatment facilities has been a major contributing factor, while the systematic underfunding of mental health services has had broad reaching consequences. The scale of this tragedy forces us to ask some very difficult questions, including the question of decriminalizing illicit drugs. The Portugal model, where use or possession of illicit drugs was changed from a criminal to administrative offence, has proven to dramatically reduce STIs and drug-related deaths. These deaths can happen to anyone. As a society, we must respond accordingly.”

“I would like to call on all provincial leaders to come together on this issue,” Campbell added. “Andrew is the only party leader to tour a pop-up safe-injection site. While Premier Clark and John Horgan have stated that they will not visit one, I urge them to reconsider. We must put humanity above all else. The fentanyl crisis is a community health issue and therefore, local politicians must learn firsthand about what is occurring and what can be done to stop these tragic deaths.”

“We must not forget our responsibility to support first responders, frontline workers and volunteers, who are trying to cope with insufficient resources and the trauma of being on the ground. This is a grassroots effort of downtown eastside community members who have come together, because it is their friends and family who are suffering and dying. What I witnessed today was a tragedy of epic proportions. Few British Columbians understand the scale of what is happening. We must support those who put themselves in the middle of it, hoping to save one life at a time.”

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Media contact
Mat Wright, Press Secretary, Office of Andrew Weaver, MLA
+1 250-216-3382 | mat.wright@leg.bc.ca

MLA Report: Fentanyl crisis shows need for comprehensive, proactive approach

As I sat down to write this article, with a dozen tabs open to fentanyl-related stories and studies, a new headline made its way to the front page and it hit me like a tonne of bricks. “Overdose deaths involving fentanyl fill Vancouver morgues to capacity.” One life lost is heartbreaking; the scale of this emergency can hardly be articulated in a way that respects and represents the grief felt around B.C.

The situation in Vancouver is particularly dire, but fentanyl-related overdoses are happening all over the province and our riding is no exception. The reach and magnitude of this crisis has been tragic. The fact that it has only continued to escalate since the B.C. Ministry of Health declared it a public health emergency on April 14 is horrific in its own right.

Also in the news at the time of writing is an article in the Vancouver Sun that reads “the B.C. government is almost doubling its advertising spending [to $15 million] five months before the provincial election, but the minister responsible says it’s to raise awareness of the fentanyl overdose crisis…”

People are dying. We need to help them, not make ads about them.

In 2009 when H1N1 hit B.C., the province put $80 million towards fighting the flu that killed 57 people. Illicit drug overdoses have killed 622 people in the first 10 months of this year, surpassing car crash fatalities to become the leading non-natural cause of death in B.C.

By their own, arguably generous, estimate the provincial government has spent $15 million to prevent and respond to overdoses. Yet even their plan to create 500 new addiction treatment spaces by 2017, a promise made by the premier in the 2013 election, remains unmet. So far only 220 new spaces have become available. And during the same period, the number of substance-abuse treatment beds for young people has dropped 25 per cent to just 89.

The government’s resources thus far have largely been focused on collecting data and distributing naloxone kits, a medication that can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose. They are important initiatives, to be sure, but they are reactionary. They kick in when someone is already in the throes of an overdose. If we want to get ahead of this crisis, we need to step in with a comprehensive plan to support people before they are that close to dying.

Reports released by researchers with the University of Victoria’s Centre for Addictions Research of B.C. (CARBC) provide evidence of the inadequacy of government responses to this emergency, but they also detail a path forward.

For Victoria specifically, they write that by delaying the implementation of supervised consumption services – despite the indications of a growing overdose epidemic and widespread reports of washrooms in social service agencies being used as unofficial and unsupervised injection sites – the province is ignoring the evidence.

As Dr. Bruce Wallace and Dr. Bernie Pauly, researchers at CARBC and faculty members at UVic, wrote in the Globe and Mail, “What is needed is a more comprehensive approach.

“This should include supervised consumption as well as increased access to treatment and opiate-substitution therapy. There is a wealth of evidence that supports the effectiveness of supervised consumption services in preventing overdoses, preventing the transmission of blood-borne disease and increasing access to referrals to treatment and opiate substation therapy.”

Last week Island Health finished the public consultation phase of their application to open a supervised consumption site in Victoria. I hope you will join me in imploring the provincial government to do everything in its jurisdictional power to support this process along, as well as follow CARBC’s recommendations to increase the number addiction-treatment facilities.

Fentanyl overdoses in our community: What you can do

On April 14, 2016 the B.C. Ministry of Health announced the number of drug-related overdoses in the province had become a public health emergency, citing 474 preventable overdose deaths in British Columbia in 2015.

In the six months that followed, they collected more data about overdoses (both fatal and non-fatal) and tried to proactively warn people about risks. During that same period, hundreds more died of illicit drug overdoses – 622 in the first 10 months of 2016, with at least 60 per cent of those directly linked to fentanyl.

It is tragically clear that this response has been insufficient and ineffective. In my next MLA Report I’d like to detail some of the recommendations made by the UVic Centre for Addictions Research of B.C. on how the province can better respond to this crisis.

But to start, I think it is important to highlight the local resources available to support drug users and their loved ones, and what to do if someone is overdosing. I would like to extend my most sincere gratitude to those constituents who have reached out to teach me about this emergency and share memories of their loved ones who have been lost to this tragic epidemic. Fentanyl-related overdoses are happening all over the province, and our riding is no exception.

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is cheap and can be cut into other drugs like cocaine, crack, MDMA (ecstasy), crystal meth, heroin, fake oxy, and fake Percocet without the user knowing. Fentanyl is 50 to 100 times more toxic than morphine, making it horribly easy to accidentally overdose on. Carfentanil, recently detected in Vancouver, is 100 times more potent than fentanyl and can be fatal to humans in 20 microgram doses – smaller than a grain of salt.

Opioid overdose symptoms include: the person not being able to stay awake, talk or walk; slow or no pulse; slow or no breathing; gurgling; skin looks pale or blue and feels cold; pupils are pinned or eyes rolled back; the person could be vomiting and their body may be limp.

Naloxone, a medication that can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose when injected into an arm, buttocks or thigh muscle, can reverse slowed breathing in one to five minutes. It is now widely available without a prescription around the province and is credited with saving countless lives. In most naloxone kits there is also a face shield that can be used for administering rescue breathing (as in CPR).

If someone is experiencing an opioid overdose you should: stimulate the person to see if they are unresponsive; call 911 and tell them if the person is not breathing; clear the person’s airway and provide rescue breathing (one breath every five seconds). Use one injection of naloxone if it is available, monitoring the person to see if they will need another dose. Be aware that an overdose can return and additional naloxone may be necessary. When paramedics arrive tell them as much as you can about the drugs used and doses.

Training and naloxone kits are available across B.C. To find a site near you, visit Toward the Heart or call 811 any time day or night. In the Oak Bay – Gordon Head riding kits are available at some pharmacies and: Royal Jubilee Hospital Prescriptions (DT 1200 – 1952 Bay St.), Royal Jubilee Hospital – Emergency Department (1952 Bay St.), and Victoria Mental Health Centre (2328 Trent St.).

For substance user services and support call Island Health at 250-213-4444 or the 24-hour crisis line at 1-888-494-3888.