Pubdate: Sat, 29 Jul 2017
Source: Victoria Times-Colonist (CN BC)
Copyright: 2017 Times Colonist
Author: Derek Peach
Page: A11


NDP Leader John Horgan held a town-hall meeting in Victoria in April,
and I got a chance to ask a question.

"John, 914 human beings died here last year of drug overdoses and my
child was one of them. What will our party do about that when we form
the government?"

The answer was gratifying because it came slowly. First, Horgan spoke
to me as a father and expressed his condolences without rushing into
some glib reply. Then he spoke of the intention of the NDP to create a
Ministry of Mental Health and Addiction so that in this province at
least, there would be a clear line of responsibility for realizing
some solutions to this national crisis. He did not pretend to know
those solutions, but he promised to get to work on them.

Well, death continues to stalk this land. Fentanyl and its cohort of
poisonous opioids have killed more than 500 individuals in our
province already, and Health Canada proclaims that we are on course to
top 1,400 deaths nationwide again this year. But it isn't a contest,
and although we number people, people are not numbers.

Teenagers popping something to jazz up the concert experience,
children of cops and preachers and teachers and shopkeepers,
middle-aged and elders, and yes, even the homeless men, women and
children on our streets - all are becoming part of the deadly "opioid
crisis" statistic.

Victims are not, however, mere statistics to their families, and
Health Canada cannot solve the problem when over 70 per cent of fatal
overdoses occur in private homes.

Only a radical shift in attitude can begin to erase the stigma
clouding the issue of drug use and slow the body count, and that shift
begins with caring.

I want you to care. Someone in your family could be next. The
statistics might tell you that 200 people have died to date in
Victoria, but not one of those 200 is just a statistic to those who
loved them. Care enough to demand safe-consumption sites be available
to the chronically relapsing people who use drugs.

Care that our first responders, the paramedics, have been blocked from
negotiating pay raises so that we might now wait hours for a response
to a house call because of staff or vehicle shortages.

Care that most of those who die of overdoses will do so because they
used alone at home, and keep talking about how deadly that practice is
to anyone who will listen until the stigma around the use of drugs
starts to dissolve.

Care that so many citizens live with chronic pain and need informed,
compassionate medical assistance beyond the walk-in clinic and
prescription pad. Just care. On July 31, we who especially care, the
family, friends and lovers of the dead - casualties of the War on
Drugs - will gather in Centennial Square to mark the beginning of a
month of remembrance and action leading up to Aug. 31, International
Overdose Awareness Day.

It is perhaps oversimplifying to say that parties campaign on promises
but have to govern on facts, even when we have such ghastly facts to
address. I invite you to step up to confront the unpleasant facts of
our rising overdose death toll and use all of the resources we have to
stop it.

We are a community of caring for people, not profits, and it is people
like my child who are dying.

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Derek Peach is a retired teacher whose daughter died of a drug overdose. 
He has advocated for a compassionate, evidence-based approach to opioid 
addiction with the view that it belongs in health care rather than 
criminal justice.
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