Question #1: Why isn’t the provincial government investing heavily in mental health and addiction treatment? If the situation along the highway strip in Cowichan, and in communities all over BC, is not a crisis, what is? Why are people wasting time over declaring a climate emergency when the disruptions on our streets and in our communities are glaringly obvious?

Question #2: Where are our two MLAs? Why don’t we see them openly and vigorously lobbying hard for provincial investment in mental health and addiction treatment right here in Cowichan? The silence from Sonja Fursteneau and Doug Routley has been deafening.

We should be grateful for recent decisions to implement parts of the Churchill report which made recommendations aimed at calming some of the more egregious disruptive behaviours that are blighting neighbourhoods and confronting businesses. Even so, there are indications Duncan city council is not exactly a willing partner in the effort to use a legal approach aimed at the more disruptive behaviours being experienced on the strip and in other parts of downtown.

This approach is a bandaid at best, although necessary in face of the reality of the situation.

Veteran mental health and addiction therapists are clear that a missing major ingredient in the current four pillar approach to this problem is treatment. Arguably, all we have in Cowichan is harm reduction, but province-wide we seriously lack access to treatment.

In the health community the accepted four pillars are harm reduction, prevention treatment and enforcement.

Supportive and low barrier housing qualify as harm reduction, as does needle exchange, although there is some question about how well that is running here. Non-profits also attempt to connect clients to services, again this is harm reduction.

Education programs are aimed at prevention but in face of the crisis in over-dose deaths, how effective have those programs been?

The new efforts by North Cowichan and Duncan to curb street behaviour can be seen as enforcement by making use of existing bylaws along with a commitment to fund staffing levels to make enforcement effective. This can be considered somewhat novel in that we would be asking those who engage in anti-social behaviour on the streets to actually be held accountable.

In terms of asking the RCMP to step up enforcement against street drug dealing is a little bit like asking them to stick a finger in a leaking dike. If the prison system can’t keep drugs out how is anybody going to stop street drug distribution?

We are also awaiting the announcement of the location for a promised “low barrier” housing facility for the homeless, yet another bandaid that will blight another neighourhood. Residents in communities across BC have been pushing back against the imposition of these facilities.

Yes, I know about the claim that a troubled and addicted individual needs a home before they can effectively begin to turn their lives around. That could be true but housing without treatment is a farce that imposes significant damage to a community where one of these facilities in imposed.

Veteran treatment therapists claim that there is little likelihood that a long term chronically drug addicted and homeless individual will ever submit to treatment. Nor are they even capable of functioning within commonly held community standards.

No one is really addressing how to deal with the hard-to-house chronically addicted, never mind those who have over-dosed and been brought back multiple times — each time with a little less mental capacity.

The bottom line is that we are investing millions in what is essentially ham reduction but not much more than press releases on treatment. There are casualties to this approach and they are largely among the taxpayers who are forced to pay for these exercises and who find their concerns largely ignored.

What we are doing is essentially very expensive babysitting of a hardcore group of people who have found they can thumb their noses at community standards and be given a free ride.

Real enforcement is called for and real options for treatment.


  1. As a recovering addict of 18 years on the Red Road I have to say my ‘debt’ to society has been surviving it. Listening to people who have opinions of addicts like we are some garbage with no right to dignity or compassion showcases the poverty of our local humanity in its highest form.
    I am tired of listening to privileged people describe ‘their’ solution from the ‘comfort zone’ of their armchair mentalities. Our ‘homeless’ problem is a symptom of the lack ..of humanity in our community. As we all drive over the blue bridge to our reserve ‘land’ of ownership and shopping mania.
    You want to talk about ‘debt’ . How are we going to pay our ‘debt’ to the First Nations relations our homes sit on.. the very bones of their ancestors? Or the continual rise in child apprehension so the local economy is leveraged for taxpayers to pay their taxes on their stolen owned homes.
    And as for addiction. Let’s see you live without your phone or your car for more than a week. You’ll be running to the next ‘safe’ injection commercial retail site for your Right to Have your entitlement to ease and comfort. I have lived here in this valley for over 23 years. Homelessness, addiction, domestic violence, child apprehension, poverty..we rank one the highest in all categories in BC. We ‘the people’ and our politics suck! You want this to end? Get involved become a member of the CHMA who run the Homeless shelter they need HELP big time. Oh and warehousing human beings is a classic Liberal economic base to insuring the status quo of white privilege. oh oh did i say that out loud how dare I.
    I do speak out. Loud
    But don’t mind me.. I am an indigenous single parent mother- this won’t even make it on this blog. Seems the guyz are the ones with the voice here. And there and everywhere. As for those who OD and are revived. They usually wish they weren’t because homeless addicts are already trying to die that is what the opiod crisis is about it is a slow progressive suicide .. a soul sickness that came with the cancer of colonization. But that is a whole other conversation about truth as we enter the ‘happy colonial holidays’.

  2. I would like to know what the cost to revive an addict is. Manpower from emergency responders, Noloxone injection, hospital stay etc. I’m guessing tens of thousands per call.

    These addicts need a chance to repay their debt to society after costing taxpayers so much money. I believe we should create a skills and job training facility for all addicts who OD. We teach them new skills, give them a bit of self worth, pay them a wage, out of which they get to pay back their debt to society. This would be an all inclusive facility they would receive food and shelter and learn valuable skills while they dry out.

  3. Peter Bell, Cobble Hill via email:

    Cowichan Post. In my considered opinion there are no such animals as ‘recreational drugs’. In the times I needed drugs they have been prescribed by a doctor, not bought from some seedy character behind the bike sheds.

    Needless to say, when I hear of someone cashing in their chips because of an overdose, there are no tears from me, and I find it utterly ridiculous that those least likely to be able to pay for expensive drugs are those most likely to be hooked on them. Further, with their Safe Injection Sites, the government is actually encouraging drug use, while the police stand idly by. What a travesty, and what a Prime Minister! (?).

    Peter Bell, Cobble Hill

  4. How about a piece looking into the efficacy of treatment for addictions?
    Everyone demands more treatment resources, but do any of them work?
    Last time I looked at the data (admittedly years ago), none of the treatment programs were any more efficacious than an addicted person deciding for themselves not to use and going it alone or attending AA; and all of the treatment programs had 50% or less efficacy. The treatment program with the best adherence/retention in the province was the one attached to the criminal justice system – you have addictions related criminal charged, you enter treatment and demonstrate abstinence or you go to jail. Yet the BC Mental Health Act does not allow involuntary hospitalization for treatment of addictions and related medical issues.
    With other medical treatments, if all you’re getting is 50/50 efficacy, then the government decides that scarce healthcare resources are better used elsewhere. After all, even treatments with 100% known efficacy (insulin for diabetics) are not fully covered.

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