Several community partners and organizations set up at an August 2021 event to raise awareness over the opioid crisis. (The News files)

Several community partners and organizations set up at an August 2021 event to raise awareness over the opioid crisis. (The News files)

LETTER: Maple Ridge leaders not dealing with overdose crisis

Life expectancy in Haney much lower than provincial average, letter writer noted

Dear Editor,

The Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction recently announced an initiative by the province to give local governments the opportunity to apply for Poverty Reduction Planning and Action Program grants to help develop local strategies and solutions to address poverty. Minister of Social Development and Poverty Reduction Nicholas Simons said, “Local governments are best suited to know what their communities need so that together, we can continue to support people who need it most.”

Local governments may be best suited to “know what their communities need,” but some local governments, including our mayor and council in Maple Ridge, stubbornly refuse to “support the people who need it most.”

In my opinion, this policy by the province is failing as the people who use drugs in our communities continue to die in record numbers as a result of the toxic illicit drug supply.

And the province knows this.

The city’s lack of cooperation in supporting our most vulnerable residents has necessitated the intervention of the province no less than three times, including the development of temporary modular housing at Royal Crescent, temporary modular housing on Burnett Street (Garibaldi Ridge) and the recently announced 52 units of permanent purpose-built supportive homes to “replace the aging temporary units at Royal Crescent, which are at the end of their lifespan.”

Is there no way for the province to intervene in order to open Overdose Prevention Sites in municipalities that refuse to do so?

A UBC-led study recently determined that “[a]t the 2016 census [life expectancy in Metro Vancouver] was 86.6 years for women and 82.5 years for men. However, certain areas such as the Downtown Eastside and Haney in Maple Ridge had a life expectancy of less than 75 years for both women and men.”

I can’t help but wonder if our lower life expectancy — comparable to that of the Downtown Eastside — is due to the significant number of overdose deaths our community has experienced since a public health emergency was declared in 2016 due to the significant rise in opioid-related overdose deaths in B.C.?

How much longer must we wait for our mayor and council to work with the province to support the people in our community who need it most? For many, it will be too late.

Christine Bossley, Maple Ridge


• READ MORE: Maple Ridge fourth highest place in province for overdose calls

• READ MORE: Life expectancy lower in local neighbourhood


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