VICTORIA – Despite Premier Christy Clark’s assurances that ‘good progress’ is being made helping British Columbians with substance abuse issues, New Democrats have revealed that treatment spaces for youth fell by 25 per cent in the last two years, said New Democrat Leader John Horgan.
“The premier said the right things when she promised 500 new addiction treatment spaces in the 2013 election campaign, but now we know that not only has she missed her own deadline, but she has actually reduced addiction treatment spaces for youth over the past three years while the overdose epidemic was growing,” said Horgan.
Horgan was speaking after attending a panel discussion on the drug overdose crisis in British Columbia at the Union of B.C. Municipalities conference in Victoria. He pointed out that in the Fraser Health Region, which includes 1.6 million people, there were only 10 youth treatment spaces available last year.
“The government’s response to underserving the Fraser Health region is to say that 22 spaces will be coming into service next year, 300 kilometres away in Keremeos. The premier may think that’s good progress; I couldn’t disagree more,” said Horgan.
Freedom of Information requests filed by the New Democrat Official Opposition have revealed that the Christy Clark Liberal government reduced youth addiction treatment spaces by 25 percent after promising in the 2013 election to build more spaces. As of March 31 this year, there were 29 fewer spaces province-wide.
“The discussions I’ve participated in over the past two days – with families who are seeing the devastating effects of fentanyl first hand, and with municipal leaders from across B.C. – have underscored the complete failure of the premier and her government to recognize a problem years in the making and to respond to help families in crisis all over this province.
“Even before this crisis started to gain a foothold and grow in our province more than three years ago, individual and families afflicted with substance abuse challenges struggled to gain access to treatment. Yet against the backdrop of rising overdose fatalities, and an election promise to increase the availability of treatment, this premier proceeded to reduce addiction treatment spaces,” said Horgan.
“Where has the Christy Clark government been for the past three years? Why has our provincial government refused to meet the needs of people and families desperate to find help when it comes to addiction?” asked Horgan. “When someone needs supports, they can’t be stuck on a wait list. They should not be forced to navigate the yawning gaps in B.C.’s treatment services. Addictions don’t wait, and the fentanyl overdose numbers make that clear.”