WHERE THEY STAND: Abbotsford candidates on overdose crisis

Plecas, Eastwood and Christie weigh in on what can be done to stop deadly scourge

WHERE THEY STAND: Abbotsford candidates on overdose crisis

The issue: B.C. is in the grips of an opioid overdose crisis, with people now dying every day from drugs tainted with fentanyl.

What the candidates say:

Darryl Plecas, BC Liberals, Abbotsford South

Getting more people into treatment is a long-term objective. What do you do when people are dying at a rate of five or six people every month to ensure that that number comes down sooner rather than later?

Well, this is an incredibly complicated issue … Some people would say, I think the medical health officer for British Columbia would say, that what we need to look at is a program of prescribing drugs for those people who are addicted to opiates and I think we’re at a place now where we seriously have to consider that and how can we make that happen? And the argument I would use is: we have safe injection sites – the problem I’ve always had with safe injection sites is we basically say ‘Come to a safe injection site, we will help you use safely,’ forgetting that many people who get their drugs are getting it via illegal ways, they’re victimizing people to get their drugs. If you had a program whereby drugs were prescribed we would eliminate that issue. And I talk to police chiefs and they say we would eliminate most property crime if we could have that kind of program. But again, I think it’s incredibly complicated. It deserves more than I could ever say.

Kevin Eastwood, Green Party, Abbotsford West

What needs to be done to battle the rising rates of opioid overdoses in British Columbia?

“It’s a very complex issue. It needs to be treated both as an accute problem and there’s more we can do to support paramedics. But in addition to that, the Green Party would like to set up a ministry for mental health and through other social programs hopefully address some of the root causes of the opioid crisis from the point of who ends up using these drugs.”

Andrew Christie, NDP, Abbotsford-Mission

Do we need to broaden access to cleaner substitute drugs that are tainted by fentanyl?

What we need is a more comprehensive network of supports around people in our community. We need mental health supports. We need supports around issues of poverty so people don’t find themselves in that situation in the first place. We need to specifically increase access to mental health care.

Do we need to broaden access to prescription heroin?

That’s certainly a public policy alternative that has been explored. I don’t really have an opinion on that, to be honest.

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