FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 2nd, 2023
Vancouver, BC — As decriminalization of illicit drugs takes effect across British Columbia this week, BC Liberal leader Kevin Falcon announced his plan to both overhaul the delivery of mental health services and build a recovery-oriented system of care for those suffering from addiction.
“Over forty years, successive BC governments closed down a rightly criticized institutional approach to mental health without ensuring an adequate system of supports was available for former patients in communities. It’s never the wrong time to do the right thing,” said Kevin Falcon, BC Liberal leader. “It is misplaced compassion to have society’s most vulnerable be exploited and abused by predatory drug dealers and human traffickers, while we pretend to care about their welfare,” he added.
“Innovative models like the Red Fish Healing Centre – located on the former Riverview lands – treat patients with severe and complex mental health and addictions in a caring and compassionate way. This project started under the former BC Liberal government is exactly the type of treatment model we would dramatically expand by tripling the beds at the existing site, while adding regional facilities across the province,” noted Karin Kirkpatrick, Shadow Minister for Housing.
In addition to investing in people with complex mental health needs, the BC Liberals commit to building an accessible, no-cost, recovery-oriented system of care for anyone struggling with addiction. It’s time to remove the barriers that contribute to BC’s impossible-to-navigate, costly, inadequate maze of treatment options.
“A true Portugal model for addiction treatment– the gold standard – requires way more than decriminalization and harm reduction on their own. A government under my leadership will immediately expand free and accessible treatment and recovery options. We will also implement involuntary care where necessary. Involuntary care must always be a last resort, but we recognize there are some cases that require this type of intervention and support for both adults and youth,” said Falcon.
The NDP’s decriminalization policy reflects what has already been in effect as the de facto law enforcement policy in B.C. for years. It is a small fraction of what should be a comprehensive approach, including harm reduction measures and effective public education, with a relentless focus on treatment as part of a recovery-oriented system of care.
“When people want treatment, they need it immediately,” said Shirley Bond, Shadow Minister for Health. “Recovery can lift people from social isolation, poverty and self-destruction, and help them rebuild careers, restore relationships and regain their health and happiness. We should be doing everything we can to make that possible.”
“Frankly, enough is enough. It’s been seven years since a state of public emergency was called on the overdose crisis. No-one honestly believes the status quo is working and doing more of the same is not going to drive better results. It’s time for significant change. Instead of perpetuating an endless debate of harm reduction versus recovery, we need to provide all supports possible to people trying to overcome addiction and give them every opportunity to get better,” said Elenore Sturko, Shadow Minister for Mental Health, Addiction and Recovery.
A Kevin Falcon-led government would immediately pursue the following initiatives as part of a comprehensive strategy to build a true system of care:
Affordable, Accessible Treatment Now
- Affordable and accessible treatment: Eliminate user fees at publicly funded addiction treatment beds and provide direct government funding for private beds through surge capacity agreements to ensure no-one faces financial barriers to treatment.
- Recovery communities: Build a minimum of five regional recovery communities for addiction treatment where residents can stay for up to a year with individualized, holistic, long-term residential treatment including Indigenous specific care.
- Treatment on demand: Create a virtual opioid dependency program to ensure immediate access to lifesaving medications like suboxone or methadone for those who don’t have a doctor and can’t get into a walk-in clinic.
- Comprehensive care: Building on the model of the Single Parent Employment Initiative, support those struggling with addiction with residential treatment, counselling and job training for one year.
- Corrections and rehabilitation: Designate living units inside correctional centres as treatment centres staffed with therapists alongside corrections officers. This will allow inmates to participate in addiction treatment while their sentence is served and improve the chances of re-integration into society following their sentence.
Compassionate Care for Complex Mental Health Needs
- Complex mental health support: Triple the beds at the Red Fish Healing Centre at Riverview and build additional regional centres using that model in the North, Thompson-Okanagan, Kootenays and Vancouver Island to ensure those requiring highly specialized mental health support can receive it close to home.
- Compassionate involuntary treatment: Bring forward legislation allowing the limited use of involuntary treatment to keep our most vulnerable youth and adults at risk of harm to themselves or others safe at modernized, compassionate facilities with 24/7 psychiatric and medical supports.
- Homelessness: We endorse the plan proposed by Dr. Julian Somers of Simon Fraser University in July 2021, providing an effective roadmap to address street homelessness with a focus on evidence-based services, partnerships with Indigenous organizations, and a highly effective model of person-centred services.
Awareness & Prevention
- Awareness & prevention: Create and deliver youth-focused public education campaigns about addiction and recovery and establish workplace campaigns to assist employers in recognizing substance use disorders and better supporting employees in recovery.
- System navigation: Create programs to support families struggling with addiction recovery system navigation, general questions, and supports for impacted family members. These programs would provide therapy and ongoing support as they work to help their loved one recover.
- Data and transparency: Establish detailed data systems to track provincewide performance measures and targets and clearly benchmark the number of publicly funded mental health and addiction treatment beds available to British Columbians. This will measure performance outcomes and ensure standardization of care.
Kevin Falcon and his team will be using these strategies as the foundation for a culturally appropriate, true system of care should they form government after the next election.
“Finally, a plan for BC that addresses the roots of our current crisis and promises a proven pathway to improvement across the province. Bravo!
Mr. Falcon’s plan represents a sea change in the prevention and treatment of addiction and mental illness in British Columbians. Overwhelming evidence demonstrates that “Better is Possible”. Mr. Falcon’s team have done the hard work of carefully learning from experience in BC and internationally, while acknowledging harms resulting from the neglect and missteps of previous governments. Their plan is a roadmap taking BC from worst to first internationally in the delivery of effective and transparent care.
For all British Columbians who seek a true provincial system addressing addiction and mental illness, the long wait is over.
Mr. Falcon’s plan offers British Columbians the opportunity to replace despair with optimism in the prevention and treatment of mental illness and addiction. All peoples and every community have roles to play in an effective system of care, and Mr. Falcon is the first BC leader to recognize that real change must start at the top.”
– Dr. Julian Somers, PhD Clinical Psychology, SFU Distinguished Professor
“We are eager for change, with thousands of people now dead from a toxic overdose crisis. We believe that overhauling BC’s mental health and addiction services and investing in a recovery-orientated system of care will improve the outcomes of individuals trapped in the cycle of addiction. In addition, treatment on demand will encourage more people to engage in wrap-around services and access to lifesaving medications and support.
We also believe that ending homelessness for our most vulnerable means the system of care must ensure those who access housing services have adequate support, so they don’t return to a life on the streets. In addition, those at risk of harm to themselves must have immediate access to assessment services.”
– Susan Hogarth, MBA, Executive Director, Westminster House
“Last Door has been raising awareness of recovery-oriented systems of care (ROSC) that build recovery capital across Canada. This is an essential step towards improving the health and well-being of individuals with mental health and addiction issues. ROSC is a holistic approach to creating an environment where individuals can recover and build resilience for future challenges. We are thrilled that this evidence-based response is being considered in British Columbia to help people lead healthy and fulfilling lives.”
– Jared Nilsson CCS-AC, ICADC, Executive Director, Last Door Recovery Society
“Recovery saved my life. For me, residential treatment followed by a sober living house and mutual support groups helped me process trauma, repair relationships and love life again. There are many pathways to recovery, and I want them all available to anyone who needs them. This plan gives me hope.”
– Sonja O, former patient at Cedars and person in recovery for 6.5 years
“The culture within the recovery community has changed over the past two decades. Recovery language is a new phenomenon and treatment needs to match. If we want change to happen, we need to go back to the humanistic aspect of care and take a holistic, long-term approach rather than an acute form of interventionist and temporary care.”
– Tanis Maurice CCS-AC, ICADC, MA (Student)