notes on a committee meeting

and the lack of fucks that members of the governing party give

On May 16, the Chief Coroner of B.C. gave testimony to the Select Standing Committee on Health…and it has taken me a week to process what all happened. Ok, she said, I’m going to review our recommendations from the previous death panel review in 2018.

The one thing that became very, very clear to us and we didn’t know — maybe you do know, but we sure didn’t — is that the treatment and recovery…. There is no evidence basis for that in this province. That’s quite shocking to people. Any of you could open a treatment and recovery centre. You may have some background in treatment for substance use; you may have not. You may have struggled with substance use yourself, or a family member may have, and you think you have expertise.

Provided that you meet the building codes for the area you live in — you’re building in the right area for the type of facility you’re building — there is no regulation around treatment that you utilize. It can be yoga and herbal tea. It can be psychoanalysts. It can be group therapy. Because there are no reporting requirements, we actually don’t know what’s effective. It’s a huge gap in our knowledge, where there are many, many services across the province ostensibly providing treatment and recovery services. We actually don’t know if any of them are effective. We, in fact, are a bit concerned that some of them are adding to the crisis, because if people are abstinent for a period of time, their tolerance is reduced, and you are more at risk of dying.

For several years, many of them were abstinence-based. They were testing people for drugs regularly. If you tested positive for any substance, you were out of the program. Some of them are still like that — our faith-based programs. They’re all different programs, and I have no doubt that they are meaning to do good work. They are thinking that they’re doing the best work, but because there are no reporting requirements, we have no idea. We have no idea how many people have been to them. We don’t know how many people finished the program, how many survived six months, 12 months, how many still don’t use substances. So it was a big gap.

Sorry I’ve gone on about that a bit, but it’s something that I find quite astounding, and when I talk to the ministry, there is currently no legislative framework for that type of reporting. There is no legislation that requires private treatment or recovery centres to adhere to any type of treatment model.

Chief Coroner Lisa Lapointe to the Select Standing Committee on Health, May 16, 2022

“Treatment” is the solution that the government is prioritizing: you may not perceive it as such but remember this a government that is adept at managing perceptions.

There is no legislation that requires private treatment or recovery centres to adhere to any type of treatment model.


Enhancing treatment and recovery

New beds for addictions and recovery care

The B.C. government has prioritized making new treatment and recovery beds available in 2021 to those who need them. This includes opening 10 specialized addiction treatment beds at Phoenix Society in Surrey, 105 beds at Red Fish Healing Centre for Mental Health and Addiction, and 105 new publicly funded beds for adults in 14 organizations in B.C.

Through Budget 2021 and the $132-million investment in treatment and recovery, 195 new substance-use beds will be added over the next two years. Through previous investments, B.C. is creating 143 new youth substance-use treatment beds, including 20 new youth beds added in Chilliwack at the Traverse facility and new adult treatment and recovery beds, including 40 beds at Our Place Therapeutic Recovery Community in View Royal.

As of September 2021, there were 3,201 publicly funded adult and youth community substance use beds. Data on beds is updated three times annually.
“Escalated drug-poisoning response actions,” April 12 2022, B.C. Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions

Note the tense: “will be added” “is creating” – 195 “beds” for unknown, unregulated “treatment” which is not monitored or evaluated at an expense of $676,000 each.

Let’a pretend, BCNDP-style, that “treatment” is a viable response to this. There’s no hurry to add these “beds,” they’ll get around to it by the end of their term. It’s on their time, at the government’s leisurely countdown to the next election, obviously no urgency, there’s no emergency here, they have a majority. There are 3,201 “beds” and in 2020 the BCCDC estimated there were 55,800 people who used illicit drugs in the province (HRSS Policy Indicators), but that estimate is based on syringe distribution, so there are a lot more people than that. But – let’s keep pretending. Let’s say every one of those 55,800 people goes to “treatment” and is miraculously recovered in under two months. Altogether, it would take more than three years for each person to access these “beds.” – while over here in reality, the problem is the unregulated illicit drug supply and it kills indiscriminately: those who are addicted and those who are not.

Let’s go back to the Committee meeting. Ronna-Rae Leonard (Courtenay-Comox, NDP) asks a question that was more of a comment, asserting that there are “checks and balances” in the treatment system, and Lapointe responds:

Again, I’ve had this conversation with the Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions, who I know are very, very focused on doing as much as they can as quickly as they can. When we say we’re funding beds, and I say, “What is a bed?” there really is, at this point, not a definition for that. I said: “Is it a bed for a person for year? Is it a bed that two or three people might occupy in a year? What happens to those two or three people?”

That’s no fault of any of the people involved, who are all meaning to do good work. It’s just that there is no legislative framework for that reporting. So we actually just don’t know. When we’re providing this funding for beds, we don’t know what’s happening. We just don’t know what the results are. They certainly are accredited people.

I’ve been at…. B.C. Centre on Substance Use did a strategic planning session, and I was in a session with a number of care — treatment and recovery — providers. One of them was frustrated that somebody had been criticized in the abstinence-based, faith-based providers. She said: “Anything is better than nothing. Nobody should be criticizing anybody, because anything is better than nothing.” And I said to her: “With all due respect, we don’t know that. We just don’t know that anything is better than nothing.” In fact, some of these programs may be doing harm, and we don’t know. We don’t know which are effective and which are doing harm.

Another MLA (Pam Alexis, Abbottsford-Mission, NDP) expresses a thought on how talk of regulation might “scare” some people in the business (as if the sensitivities of exploitative grifters are more important to protect than the lives of every person in the province who uses drugs).

It is tough to listen to elected representatives cluelessly defend the indefensible, and in doing so reveal not only that they don’t give a fuck, but also that they never will. To hear the Chief Coroner say this:

All the current model does is provide huge profits to unscrupulous organized crime. They are making millions of dollars off of our loved ones, with no guarantee of safety, and we know that. We see that by the number of people dying every day. We have to do something differently. We just have to do something differently. 

and have the power to do EVERYTHING differently and decide to do nothing at all. (These are the members of the committee.)

Remember, the province’s policy is to “separate people from the toxic drug supply” – in other words, it will not change its obsolete, failed response. It is refusing to acknowledge that we are in a new era of domestically-produced synthetic drugs and that this can only get worse.