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Time for new approach to mental health and addictions

MLA Lorne Doerkson’s column to the Free Press
Lorne Doerkson is the Liberal MLA for the Cariboo-Chilcotin. (Black Press Media file photos)

Since the overdose crisis was declared in 2016, 11,000 people in B.C. have lost their lives to overdoses and toxic drugs. That’s 11,000 siblings, parents, spouses, and children who will never come home. It’s a tragic crisis on a scale previously unheard-of in B.C. — one we have witnessed firsthand in our own community — and we cannot let it continue.

It’s clear the measures the current government has been using to address the crisis aren’t working. We can’t keep doing the same ineffective things over and over again while people continue to die.

That’s why our BC Liberal leader Kevin Falcon has announced a massive plan to overhaul the delivery of mental health services in B.C. and build a recovery-oriented system of care for the whole province.

If the BC Liberals form government after the next election, we will invest $1.5 billion into mental health and addictions over the first three years, taking tangible and intentional action to not just keep people safe, but get them well. We will focus on creating a system of care that includes harm reduction, and ensures everyone who needs it has access to cost-free treatment and recovery.

Our plan will build on innovative models like the Red Fish Healing Centre – located on the former Riverview lands – across the province so people with severe and complex needs can get compassionate, 24/7 psychosocial support. We will eliminate user fees at publicly funded addiction treatment beds and provide direct government funding for private beds because money shouldn’t determine whether or not someone has the chance to get well.

Additionally, we will build regional recovery communities where people struggling with addiction can stay for up to a year with individualized, holistic, and culturally sensitive treatment support. This plan will ensure resources are available to all who need them.

Instead of wasting time in an endless debate of harm reduction versus recovery, we need to provide all supports possible to people trying to overcome addiction and give them every opportunity to get better.

We have a lot of work ahead of us to fix a broken system that is not working. But we know we can do better — that if we focus on evidenced-based treatment and recovery, and support an entire continuum of care, we can save lives and put people on a path for success. At the end of the day, this is all about people — and ensuring everyone in B.C. has the opportunity and support they need to live long, healthy, and full lives.

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