Evidence bags containing fentanyl were displayed during a news conference at Surrey RCMP Headquarters, in Surrey, on Thursday, Sept. 3, 2020. (Darryl Dyck, Canadian Press)

Evidence bags containing fentanyl were displayed during a news conference at Surrey RCMP Headquarters, in Surrey, on Thursday, Sept. 3, 2020. (Darryl Dyck, Canadian Press)

LETTER: Maple Ridge man says treatment centres needed to handle drug crisis

Decriminalization won’t solve the problems, letter writer says

Dear Editor,

Re: [2.5-gram threshold for decriminalized drugs ‘a floor not a ceiling,’ B.C. minister pledges, mapleridgenews.com, June 2]

In regards to increasing the allowable amount of possession of illicit drugs to 2.5 grams, I don’t think this will actually have an impact on the overdose crisis and I actually don’t see this as having any kind of positive impact in reducing the number of overdose deaths.

The government calls it a critical step in reducing the shame and fear associated with substance use, but as Mo Korchinski, executive director of Unlocking the Gates Services Society and advisor to the Mental Health Commission of Canada, points out this won’t actually change the number and type of arrests made for simple possession of illicit drugs.

Statistics show that police aren’t actively trying to arrest people with small amounts of narcotics, just as Korchinski mentions. Only about 3.8 per cent of arrests are made for simple possession alone, with the vast majority of arrests made when they are apprehended for another offense (typically theft or assault), and they are found to have illicit drugs on them.

I have also witnessed people injecting drugs in plain view during the day (not only in Maple Ridge but other cities in the Lower Mainland as well), and there is no police presence around this kind of activity. It is a complicated scenario, and very likely the police are not actively pursuing arrests for simple possession of small amounts of illicit drugs as they see this with the current perspective of the addiction being a medical issue more than a criminal issue.

Another concern with the allowable increase to 2.5g is that it could prove deadly to someone in possession of 2.5g of fentanyl. And with advocates calling for an exemption up to 4.5g this would be very dangerous for someone with that much fentanyl planning to use it at one time, as Korchinski correctly mentions.

With the issue of a safe supply, there are areas in Vancouver and Surrey where individuals can use under the supervision of a nurse or other health care worker, and they can be provided Narcan immediately if they overdose.

There are many such places around (supervised injection sites at In-Site as well as many safe injection rooms in the multitude of shelters), but there are still going to be those that choose to use their own supply of drugs (even though it may be unsafe) with a safe supply being available.

I have worked in mental health and addictions since 2013 and the only lasting solution I foresee is building more detox and treatment facilities (mentioned by Korchinski as well).

This is the path towards recovery and getting those with addictions to completely abstain from using. This is also the way to dramatically reduce the opioid crisis and resulting deaths, and allow families to live normal, peaceful lives free of drug use.

I propose that the provincial government fully fund a new state-of-the-art, modern treatment center in Maple Ridge.

It should be large enough to meet the current needs of the Maple Ridge population, and bed utilization would be prioritized for those living in Maple Ridge. The treatment center would also utilize surrounding community supports to help clients adjust and maintain their abstinence once they finish their treatment. The center would also have nurses, doctors, and accredited counsellors available during their treatment, while using best practices in the field of addictions recovery.

I also request that the province fund the center in perpetuity so that the center is never closed or downsized due to a lack of funding.

I am asking that those who agree with this please sign my petition on my Facebook page or through change.org.

Chris O’Brian, Maple Ridge

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• READ MORE: For decriminalization to save lives, users need to be allowed to carry more drugs: B.C. advocates

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