Health Minister on the ‘desperate fight against a public health crisis’

By on December 21, 2016
B.C. Health Minister Terry Lake. (Photo courtesy of Kamloops This Week)

 

Health Minister Terry Lake and Kamloops-North Thompson MLA Terry Lake has posted on his Facebook page his thoughts on the overdose crisis gripping the province.

With overdoses claiming 755 lives in B.C. — and 32 in Kamloops — to the end of November, and with November setting a record for such deaths in a month provincewide (128), Lake has penned his thoughts on what he calls “ desperate fight against a public health crisis.”

 

“I rarely use my Facebook page to talk about anything political, but we are in the midst of a desperate fight against a public health crisis and I need to share my thoughts and experiences.

“I have spent more than a year, first noting a sizeable increase in the number of illicit drug overdoses in British Columbia, and then realizing that this was something unprecedented in our province’s history — the worst epidemic in modern times. At the height of the HIV/AIDS crisis, we were losing one life a day. Illicit drugs, mostly synthetic opioids like fentanyl and carfentil, are claiming four lives every single day.

“I have spent hours upon hours reading about illicit drugs, addiction, recovery and many more hours consulting experts in these fields. This I know — there are no simple solutions. That is not an excuse. It is a realization that human behaviour and, indeed the human brain, is very complicated.

“Despite the fact 21 states in America have drug overdose death rates higher than ours, we have taken measures that are far beyond any others on this continent. B.C. is the only jurisdiction with supervised consumption sites and the first to implement overdose-prevention sites. We have widespread access to naloxone — a life-saving antidote to opiates and the largest centre of drug addiction research and training in North America.

“We are expanding, as quickly as possible, access to treatment for those who are ready to receive it. Treating addiction is not as simple as fixing a broken leg or even opening clogged cardiac arteries. We cannot order people into treatment and history has proven that we cannot effectively choke off the supply of illicit drugs.

“What we as a society can do is try to keep people alive when they are struggling with addiction and together continuously work to improve the social determinants of health like education, economic opportunities and reconciliation of historic wrongs to indigenous people.

“I have read with dismay e-mails, comments and letters to the editor that question why we are spending money on ‘addicts’ when other health needs are not fully met. I understand why these comments are made because part of me shares the frustration of being unable to ‘fix’ a problem that has haunted human society for a very long time. I remind myself though, that we treat lifelong smokers for lung cancer, speeding drivers when they suffer a crash and those who ignore diet and exercise when heart disease takes its toll.

“Humans are frail, but one quality we share is compassion and a hope that we can lift each other up when we most need it.

“I am in awe of the paramedics, nurses, counsellors, peer support workers, volunteers, police, first responders, doctors and others on the front line of this public health crisis. They are heroes. Thanks to people like Bob Hughes, doctors Perry Kendall, Bonnie Henry, Evan Wood, Keith Ahamed, Mark Tyndall and to my daughter (future Dr.) Stephanie Lake for providing insight and guidance

“We will get through this crisis and I fervently hope that it leads us to a better understanding of physical and emotional pain and how to relieve it, to more effective ways of providing support for our vulnerable and, at the very least, to seeing each other as fellow human beings who are doing their best with what life throws at them.

“If a friend or someone in your family is facing a challenge with opioid addiction, I found this article to be particularly informative. I hope you will share it.”

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