News Views: State of welfare

Maple Ridge councillor supports a trial to divide days welfare cheques disbursed.

A new study suggests that creating new or more distribution options for welfare cheques will reduce drug overdoses.

The study findings, released in the International Journal of Drug Policy, revealed the risk of drug overdose among injection drug users increased dramatically on and immediately following the days income assistance cheques are distributed in B.C. – the last Wednesday of each month.

Researchers at the Urban Health Research Initiative for the B.C. Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS, at St. Paul’s Hospital, observed the risk of overdoses among people injecting drugs at InSite, a supervised facility, was more than twice as likely on or immediately after cheques are issued.

It wasn’t that a higher number of injections were occurring, just riskier behaviour at the time.

The findings are consistent with overdose data from the Vancouver Coastal Health Authourity and hospital emergency departments, as well as Vancouver Police Department information about  increased service demands.

While Ridge Meadows RCMP claims there is no connection between welfare day and overdoses, Maple Ridge Coun. Bob Masse, also a downtown business owner and member of the city’s social planning advisory committee, confirms the latter to be true – binging tends to happen when income assistance cheques are handed out.

He also supports one of the study’s recommendations, a trial to divide welfare cheques over at least two payments, with direct deposit.

Even if doing so does not reduce the number of overdoses overall, it could spread them out and relieve pressure on hospital staff and police, as well as mitigate other drug-related harms associated with cheque day, possibly violence and prostitution.

Masse thinks the trial makes sense and is worth a try. So do the experts. So why not?


– Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows News