Pubdate: Fri, 28 Jul 2017
Source: Chilliwack Progress (CN BC)
Copyright: 2017 The Chilliwack Progress
Author: Greg Knill


Chilliwack city council has had enough.

It's called on Fraser Health to step up and "do its job" as the death
toll from the opioid crises climbs and homeless numbers grow.

In a scathing rebuke, Chilliwack Mayor Sharon Gaetz and all six city
councillors accused Fraser Health of failing to provide the services
Chilliwack requires - services that are being provided to other
municipalities where the crisis is less severe.

"We've fallen off the radar of Fraser Health," said Gaetz at a council
meeting last week.

She was responding to a staff report that recommended top Fraser
Health and BC Housing executives be invited "to a meeting to discuss
gaps in service and advocate for improvement."

The private meeting would include Fraser Health president and CEO
Michael Marchbank, Chief Medical Officer and vice-president Victoria
Lee, BC Housing CEO, Shayne Ramsay, and BC Housing VP of Operations,
Craig Crawford.

But a closed-door meeting wasn't what Councillor Jason Lum wanted. In
fact, if the meeting were private, he said he wouldn't go. "I've said
my piece," he told his fellow councillors.

Instead, he called for a public meeting where the executives could
hear the public's fears and frustrations regarding this mounting crisis.

Council has certainly heard it. They're being told daily to address an
issue that is clearly outside the mandate of any municipality.

"This is a really big deal," said Gaetz. "It's a big deal for our

And the numbers tell the story. Chilliwack is on track for more than
twice the number of overdose deaths it had last year. It ranks third
in the region for "overdose events" and second for the number of
suspected cases showing up at the Chilliwack ER.

And yet, City Hall's call for a dedicated outreach team has failed to
move Fraser Health. In fact, it's gone the other direction. After
promising $70,000 to hire an outreach worker for needle collection and
education alone, it is now contracting Griffin Security to collect
needles three hours a day.

That's unacceptable, council says. And it's hard to argue with

What the city has asked for is a full "ICM team" like what both
Langley and Maple Ridge have and what Abbotsford will soon get. The
Intensive Case Management teams are made up of five full-time clinical
support workers, one peer support worker, administrative support,
after hours on-call support, a psychiatrist, a special addictions
physician and a general physician. In addition, the teams are provided
rent subsidies from BC Housing of $189,000 for Langley and $252,000
for Maple Ridge - money that is above and beyond what's allocated to
help individuals (70 in all) find housing.

What Chilliwack's been given is a "virtual" ICM team, consisting of
two part-time psychiatric nurses, two outreach health care workers,
and the promise of two additional nurses.

"There are no subsidies attached to this team," says the city staff
report, "and when compared to an official team, we are short five
clinical, educated staff members."

Council is also asking Fraser Health to reopen the detox facility it
closed in 2009, saying there are currently too many barriers to recovery.

"This is a plea for help," said Gaetz.

But voicing a frustration shared by many in the community, councillor
Ken Popove was more blunt. "We've had 'Shame the johns,'" he said.
"Let's shame Fraser Health."

Clearly Chilliwack city council has grown tired of asking nicely. It's
tired of watching the social and human toll mount, while telling its
citizens that an effective response is beyond its mandate and outside
its authority.

Fraser Health, said Councillor Sam Waddington, "Needs to step up and
do their job."

And I agree.
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MAP posted-by: Matt