If Premier Christy really is dedicated to the families of British Columbia, she is certainly missing a huge opportunity to help the families that are dealing with addiction in their family.
If you work for BC Hydro or are an RCMP officer and have an addiction problem, funds ranging from $10,000 to $15,000 are available to provide residential rehab at high-end private clinics, a number of which operate in British Columbia: Edgewood in Nanaimo is one of the prime examples.
However, if you are addicted and on the streets, no agency in B.C. will provide any funds to get similar 90-day treatment.
We do have an incredible network of underground, mostly faith-based rehab facilities that do an astounding job. But it is actually illegal for our health districts to even refer clients to those facilities, and the waiting list to get in is in the hundreds, maybe even the thousands.
Women and children have the fewest opportunities.
The despair that comes from addiction and mental illness on our streets is devastating.
Report after report proves that individuals who behave as our street population does cost society millions of dollars per year.
Their lifestyle creates situations that plug our hospitals, our ambulance services, and our mental health facilities, yet we are not willing to contribute any monies toward getting these people the help they need.
Any of our frontline health care workers, psych nurses, and first responders will tell you the system is dysfunctional: "We stabilize from psychosis and send them out on their merry way."
If any organization dares to believe in sobriety as an answer, as opposed to the government's officially adopted harm reduction model, they are shunned from the system.
Our current system with harm reduction apparently has helped create more than 15,000 methadone addicts in the province, many of whom report getting hooked while incarcerated in our prison system.
Without getting into a lengthy debate about the irresponsibility of the harm-reduction method, getting sober from methadone is one of the most difficult addictions to break.
It is not surprising that a certain group of doctors and pharmacists seem to specialize in the supply and administration of methadone. Let's leave that discussion for another day.
Maple Ridge's advocate workers have been successful in the past in finding facilities for some of our folks to get into effective treatment programs. Some have had to actually go more than once and some have even been committed to more than a year to the Baldy Hughes facility in Prince George.
Facilities such as Vision Quest, Hope for Freedom Society, and Hannah House need $10,000 per year to support a bed which on average would pull three or four people off the streets and perhaps even a couple of them forever, but Christy won't fund them.
The cost is less than the civil cost of not giving them a bed, and the proof is the four-to-six-week lineup for detox.
Ministers Rich Coleman and Lorne Mayencourt show compassion and understanding about dealing with the problem.
They have been trying - through the tools available to them - to advance the cause, with no apparent leadership from the premier's office.
Her advisers' answers range from: "It doesn't show up on polling, therefore, it is not an issue," to, "It costs too much because there are too many of them," and, "There are not enough people who really want to go."
Obviously, these can't all be right. So Premier Christy, if you really care about families, approve a couple of dozen of the best facilities in B.C. and immediately authorize them to expand, and fund them $10,000 per year per bed for "every person who wants to go."
Your battle cry should be, "If you or someone in your family needs treatment, raise your hand."
And Premier Christy, you are blessed to already have a group of hardworking MLAs, led by Randy Hawes, who could have a program in place in days.
There is an addiction and abuse crisis in B.C. that is growing.
To date, the government and health authorities are in denial of this fact.
If there was a place to go, I wonder how long the line would be?
- Gordy Robson is a former Maple RIdge mayor and a local businessman who was raised in this community. His opinion column appears Tuesdays in the print and/or online versions of The TIMES. Questions and reactions can be emailed to Gordy Robson c/o firstname.lastname@example.org