By Letter to the Editor on December 12, 2019.
The Vancouver downtown east side (DES) had the first supervised injection site in North America, opening in 2003, and 11 years later Canada was hit with the opioid crisis. Overdose deaths in B.C. rose 725 per cent from 2003-2018, even though the site/social programs were in place for many years. In 2019 the Vancouver CHA saw the highest rate of ODs at 208, despite extensive harm-reduction measures.
The Vancouver greater DES population is around 19,000 with 260 social/housing programs costing $360 million per year. Annual EMS costs in Vancouver to respond to ODs are $500,000 and police responses involving mental-health issues are $9 million per year.
Costs per individual: Untreated addicts’ costs to society, including crime, judicial costs, health care – at least $45,000 per year, but a 2016 study found that 107 chronic offenders incur public service costs of $247,000 per person per year.
A separate paper released by Dr. Julian Somers of SFU in 2016 found chronic offenders with the highest use of public services cost more than $5 million per year, with no meaningful signs of improvement. It suggests about 300 people need targeted, extensive supports to escape the revolving door.
These are only a few of many examples of the crisis in Vancouver, using similar programs yet we are making the same mistakes.
The City of Vancouver states the overdose death rate in the city has increased every year since 2014. Crime continues to rise along with homelessness, the number of addicts and costs to support all of the services.
Recently they have realized it is not working!
Sept. 15, the Vancouver mayor called on federal leaders to act on the overdose crisis, and wants to allow substance users access to pharmaceutical-grade heroin.
Oct. 21, “Vancouver councillor calls for review of city’s drug strategy,” calling for more resources to tackle drug issues, more prevention and treatment, more money from other levels of government!
Our province, with the support of our city, is leading us down the same road of high costs with little results by enabling addicts.
Addicts need to be treated using effective treatment programs that have already been successful in Tennessee, yet they continue to ignore the biggest example of a program that is a failure right next to us!
So how big is your wallet? Are you ready to jump onto this perpetual gong show that will bleed us dry? Look at the costs with no results. Take the money used to enable addicts and get them into effective treatment programs!