Five years after the provincial government declared illicit drug poisonings as a public health emergency, there still doesn’t appear to be a light at the end of the tunnel.
Kelowna mother Helen Jennens and other members of Moms Stop The Harm placed crosses at Rotary Beach Park on April 14 to commemorate the children she and other parents have lost.
Since 2016, more than 7,000 British Columbians have died from illicit drugs and Jennens said improvement in that time has been limited.
“When the public health emergency was first announced, there were 922 deaths in British Columbia. Now five years later, just in 2020 alone, there were 1,716 deaths.”
Jennens said the pandemic and the public health order to limit interactions with others has only exacerbated the situation, with people being forced to use alone.
At the same time, however, she acknowledged that the pandemic has also slowed down people’s access to illicit drugs.
“The pandemic has prevented our usual stream of illicit drugs getting into the country,” she said.
“So we’ve done some great things: safe injection sites, the wider use of Naloxone, harm reduction. But we really need to work towards decriminalization of people who use drugs and a safe supply.
“We are denying people that are sick life-saving medication. We would not do that with any other illness and yet we deny people with substance use disorder the medication that can possibly save their lives.”
Jennens’ plea echoes the provincial government’s announcement that it will request a federal exemption to decriminalize the personal possession of drugs.
“If we can decriminalize, it’s in the right direction. But right now, what we need is a regulated safe supply if we want to save lives.”