Letter: ‘Good on Portugal for trying’

‘We have to understand that low-barrier does nothing.’

Editor, The News:

Re: ‘Empathy has led to enablement.’

After reading the letter by Mike Shields, I’m surprised by his present stance, which, by the way, I agree with.

We have allowed our policy and good sense to be determined by jingoism, politics and enablement of pro-drug advocates.

Some are good meaning, some not, just forwarding the legalization agenda of hard drugs.

We have to understand that low-barrier does nothing, but makes a number of us just feel good. I repeat it does nothing to address and treat the problem of addiction.

Make no mistake this is a problem, which has been going on far too long. We have been sold a bill of good that hardcore drug use is acceptable in our society. It is not, given the associated other issues that arise (to say nothing of the cost), such as use of limited resources of first responders, who are unfortunately put into the position of enabling such use.

To say nothing of the fact that this minimizes their duties in other areas.

Addiction is not the only issue here, either. Mental illness and the care for those who have these such conditions have been ignored. Again, particularly the NDP of days gone by, shut down Riverview and downloaded the resulting consequences and costs to first responders, hospitals and the various health agencies throughout the province.

We have done nothing to treat the addiction issue, which is rampant in this community, those who self-medicate to feel better in the hope that they get back to the normalcy they want to feel.

Again, shame on us because we’ve made this a political football and an industry.

You cannot address these issues by simply providing housing without life-skills and jobs training, and most importantly a desire to leave their drug using past behind them.

Unfortunately, I predict that without providing these elements in place that the housing will deteriorate into a filthy slum, adding to the NIMBY mentality for future projects.

Granted, there are a few members of the homeless community who are not drug-addled or mentally ill. They have hit some bad luck and need a hand up not a hand out. Social services should concentrate on eliminating this number and getting them back on their feet.

I have had over 35 years experience dealing with these individuals amongst others. I am more severe in my outlook as to how to treat the issues we are facing. I know I am going to get a response from those that hold the do-good mentality, who support drug legalization, pointing to Portugal as the poster child for drug decriminalization. If you possess amounts for personal consumption, you are not charged. Trafficking is still an offence, which can get you jail time to a max of 12 years.

If you research the matter further, Portugal still has some of the highest addiction rates in the European community, but they are trying to address the addiction issue.

If you break the laws, you are given a choice of jail time or enrolment and completion of a rehab program.

If you drop out of the program or are caught using on this alternative program to the criminal program, you go to jail.

Their system still has flaws, but is trying to address the core issues of addiction.

I say good on them for trying.

Up to now, our safe injections sites, needle exchanges, feeding programs have done nothing for the addiction issues.

The measure of success for me: are there fewer addicts; are there fewer homeless; are there fewer drains on emergency or hospital resources?

We’ve had these programs in place for how many years? Has any of this improved the homeless or drug addiction situations? Mind you, governments at the provincial and federal levels have paid little more than lip service to addressing mental health and addiction issues.

Let’s monitor this housing experiment we have initiated and see if the situation improves. Unfortunately, I’m pessimistic because Anita Place is full and is getting more people as the housing project is filling up.

Success?

Steve Hegedus

Maple Ridge

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