Pubdate: Wed, 28 Jun 2017
Source: Abbotsford News (CN BC)
Copyright: 2017 Abbotsford News
Author: Vikki Hopes


Prevention, early intervention key, Rich says

Abbotsford Police Chief Bob Rich recalls the phone call he received
from a mom traumatized by the death of her adult son.

The man was prescribed opioids to cope with the physical pain
following an operation, but he became addicted and turned to buying
drugs on the streets.

His habit turned fatal when he ingested a substance that was,
unknowingly to him, laced with fentanyl.

"That's just horrible to me. We're talking about somebody who never
would have been a drug addict … That makes me angry," Rich said of the

That story and many others have prompted Rich to author a report titled 
The Opioid Crisis: The Case for Prevention, which was released Tuesday.

The report comes in the midst of the drug overdose crisis, which had
seen 488 deaths in B.C. alone so far this year as of April 30.

The projected provincial death toll for the year is

Half of those deaths occurred in private residences, and only 10 per
cent were on the streets.

Many of those who have died were recreational or first-time

Rich wants to spread a message of prevention, in much the same way
that messages about cigarette smoking and drunk driving led to changes
in attitudes and behaviour over the years.

Rich said prior to the overdose crisis, the risk of dying while using
street drugs was mainly isolated to "entrenched drug users."

But now any user of drugs is at high risk, and he believes a "culture
shift" is needed, with a larger focus on prevention and early

"For a crisis caused by an unstoppable flow of drugs that are killing
people daily, the real answer lies with finding a way to stop people
from initially using these drugs," Rich writes.

He said the current response typically involves first responders
attending an overdose call, after which the individual chooses not to
go to the hospital or seek treatment.

"The problem is that, although this response saves a life, it does
nothing to end the drug use and cycle of addiction causing the
crisis," Rich writes in the report.

He said an addict currently seeking recovery faces a number of
barriers, including cost, capacity, stigma and discrimination.

Rich said a "new methodology" and "re-allocation of existing
resources" are needed. He says that such a program will require, among
other things:

* a government appointee in charge of a prevention and early
intervention program;

* the development of a comprehensive plan;

* co-operation among various government agencies to come up with
solutions; and

* a targeted approach that includes messages and programs.

The full report can be viewed online at
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