The province has pledged to create 123 new treatment beds for young British Columbians struggling with drug use as part of its latest response to the ongoing opioid crisis which has worsened during COVID-19.
During a news conference Thursday (Aug. 13) Addictions Minister Judy Darcy said the spaces would include detox, withdrawal management and substance-use treatment services.
The beds will take an estimated two to three years to fully implement, with the first round expected to be created in March of next year.
“For too long, young people and their families have faced long waits for treatment and a fragmented mental health and addictions system,” Darcy told reporters.
“Especially in these challenging times, young people shouldn’t have to wait for care.”
Once fully constructed, the $36-million initiative will bring the total number of new beds specific to those 12 to 24 years old to 247 across the province.
Brody Van Velze, who has been sober for four years, told reporters that his treatment was only possible because he was able to access treatment at Last Door, a centre in New Westminster.
“You can’t take an opportunity that you aren’t given,” he said. “Since the age of 14, I have struggled with substance abuse. During my addiction my life was filled with broken relationships, no respect for others or myself, and poor decisions.”
Judy Darcy, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, announces substance use treatment for young people throughout British Columbia. https://t.co/NAkoGb8TYj
— BC Government News (@BCGovNews) August 13, 2020
The pandemic has exacerbated B.C.’s first provincial health emergency, the overdose crisis, with death tolls reaching record numbers in May and June do to an increasingly toxic drug supply. Statistics for the number of lives lost to fatal overdoses in July are expected in coming weeks.
The new beds mark the first funding into youth treatment spaces by the NDP government since 2017. Over the last three years, prior to this announcement, the province had added 20 new beds to the existing 104.
Earlier this year, the province tried to pass legislation which would allow youth under the age of 19 to be admitted into hospital care for up to 48 hours after suffering from an overdose. Many groups – including the First Nations Health Authority – were quick to raise concerns of leaving room for further trauma.
The legislation, known as bill 22, has been put on hold as staff conduct a further review.
Earlier this month, B.C. announced $10.5 million in additional funding to open 17 new supervised consumption sites and 12 inhalation sites, which allow for users to safely administer their drugs while serving as a form of harm reduction.
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