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


Needles are the visible sign of a community under siege by addicts.
(Black Press file)

It's time for Fraser Health to speak directly to Chilliwack about what
is being done to counter out-of-control addiction issues in the
streets, say city councillors.

The topic boiled over at the last city council meeting, as they
discussed a staff recommendation to invite Fraser Health brass to a
meeting in Chilliwack with council to address "gaps in service" with
suggestions for improvements.

Coun. Jason Lum said he felt compelled to express very strong feelings
on the matter.

"It's been truly frustrating," he told The Progress this week. "The
community is beyond frustrated. As council, we have been taking the
brunt of the anger and frustration brewing out there."

There has been a lot of talk, but the response has been "totally
inadequate" in relation to the enormity of the problem Chilliwack is

So Lum won't attend any future sitdowns with Fraser Health officials,
and thinks they need to hear the voices of citizens.

"I have zero interest in any more closed-door meetings with Fraser
Health at city hall," said Coun. Lum, who said he tried that route
already, and it has not netted results.

"It's time for Fraser Health to come directly to the community to
speak about the initiatives they have underway, what is planned, and
how they will start alleviating public concerns," argued Lum.

Council ended up passing a unanimous motion to that effect on July 18,
inviting Fraser Health to Chilliwack to host a public meeting,
answering the public's questions on matters of addictions and detox.

Coun. Ken Popove said that he would be surprised if Fraser Health
officials showed up for a public meeting to speak to citizens as they
seem to prefer the closed-door approach.

"Last meeting was teleconferenced and we were talking about needles,"
he said. "And that fell apart."

But maybe the way to go is similar to the "Shame the johns" efforts,
Coun. Popove said, maybe they should try a "Shame Fraser Health" approach.

Mayor Sharon Gaetz noted that "for whatever reason Chilliwack has
fallen off the radar" of Fraser Health, and the stats show Chilliwack
is not treated the same as other communities throughout the Lower
Mainland in fighting the scourge of addiction, drug rehab, and

"There is a definite inequity," Gaetz said, whether it's annual
subsidies, or the number of outreach workers."

Coun. Chuck Stam, who is also chair of the Fraser Valley Regional
Hospital District Board, said he 100 per cent supported the idea for a
public meeting. He called efforts by Fraser Health to date "futile"
and called for a better plan.

"Fraser Health needs to stop hiding in Surrey," he said. "We need to
own this issue."

The report said Chilliwack is projected to have 21 deaths from drug
overdoses in 2017, up from nine in 2016. Suspected overdoses are up as

Since medically supervised detox beds were closed in Chilliwack in
2009, only "daytox" has been available. So medical detox is "sorely
lacking" in Chilliwack, Gaetz said.

Part of the problem is that the city has been consistently blamed for
everything by the public.

"We don't have the lion's of responsibility for this, and yet we've
had to divert city resources from areas where they should be
concentrated like on roads, public works, and parks," Lum said after
the meeting. "We are stuck responding an issue that only seems to be
getting worse."

City employees have really stepped up.

"But they've been sworn at, and spit on while picking up garbage,
feces, and needles. That's not the job they signed up for."

What Chilliwack needs is a fully funded ICM team, which stands for
Intensive Case Management. An ICM team takes the multi-disciplinary
approach to tackling addiction and housing needs. Each team would have
five full-time clinical support workers, one peer support worker,
administrative support, after-hours on-call support, a psychiatrist, a
specialized addictions specialist and a physician.

Maple Ridge and Langley have an ICM team, and it's coming to
Abbotsford, but Chilliwack is not on the list for one.

"Other communities, even those with fewer homeless/addict numbers, are
getting these ICM teams funded," Coun. Lum said.

If Fraser Health declines the invitation to hold a public meeting for
Chilliwack, they should at least agree to sit down with staff and
council, said Mayor Gaetz.

"Our community has been held hostage, and it's unfair," said Coun.
Chris Kloot, who said Fraser Health should be billed for the costs
associated with picking up used needles.

Coun. Sam Waddington said a "compassionate, human approach" is
required from Fraser Health, and "they need to step up and do their
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