BC Conservatives Call for Addictions Treatment, Propose Funding Source
VERNON –The BC Conservative Party calls for a robust province-wide addictions treatment programme, to be paid for by existing taxes.
"Harm reduction as a strategy should be viewed as the first step in a continuum of care that ends with active, abstinence-based recovery," said Scott Anderson, interim leader of the BC Conservative Party. "The current strategy of harm reduction as an end in itself, with half-hearted attempts to supply "treatment" for addicted people who both want it and are able to wait from 48 hours to two weeks to get help, is simply not working."
Anderson endorses the findings of "Strategies to Strengthen Recovery in British Columbia: The Path Forward," by the BC Centre for Substance Abuse as a common sense approach to the problem. The study focuses on recovery, with abstinence as the end goal.
"Having dealt with addictions in both my family and almost daily as a municipal issue, it came as a real surprise to learn that the vast bulk of the provincial medical resources dedicated to addictions is devoted to harm reduction, with treatment relegated almost to the status of an afterthought, and usually entailing opioid replacement as an end in itself," said Anderson. "As the study suggests, it's time for a new path forward."
Many addictions experts believe that passing out free needles, supplying safe injection sites, and encouraging so-called "low barrier" shelters (which allow active drug use) is nothing more than enabling if these policies are executed in the absence of a more comprehensive and robust recovery-based treatment regime. "It's as if we're trying to cure cigarette smoking by handing out cigarette holders and ash trays," said Anderson.
"We can keep taking the easy - and frankly cheapest - way out by focusing on harm reduction and continue ignoring the actual issue," said Anderson. "But there is a better way and in the long run it'll save both money and heartbreak for the families involved."
The BC Conservative Party supports continuing funding for harm reduction efforts, but only within the context of a comprehensive strategy aimed at full recovery based on abstinence.
"What we've been doing isn't working," said Anderson. "It's time to try something different."
At the present time, there is significant private recovery-based treatment infrastructure operating in BC, but it is being underutilized, if it is used at all by the province. Doctors working within the Health Authorities are forced to quietly send patients able to pay to private clinics, while patients unable to pay are turned away to fend for themselves.
The BC Conservatives propose that funding be drawn from taxes on the sales of tobacco, gambling, alcohol, and a new tax on cannabis. Rather than simply doubling down on the present harm reduction strategy, however, the party suggests engaging the private sector by funding it through a regulated grant system.
"We know this is going to cost money to fix," said Anderson. "Yet the answer to both fixing and funding is staring us in the face."
The full text of "Strategies to Strengthen Recovery in British Columbia: The Path Forward," can be found [here. http://www.bccsu.ca/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/Report-Strategies-to-Strengthen-Recovery-in-British-Columbia-The-Path-Forward.pdf]