Maple Ridge city officials, with local fire and RCMP, move in to dismantle the Anita’s Place homeless camp, where drug addiction is rampant and a concern to residents.
Jason Payne / PNG
We know that making life better for the most vulnerable people in B.C. means making it better for everyone.The overdose crisis is one of the worst public-health emergencies our province has ever faced, and it’s having an enormous impact on our families and communities. By the end of this day three or four people will die. That is unacceptable and heartbreaking.People living with addictions, people dying of overdoses, come from all walks of life. They are construction workers, middle-class professionals, people living in poverty. They’re us. They matter.Yet, people with substance-use disorders still face enormous barriers. And if they’re homeless, the odds against them are even greater. But the biggest barrier has nothing to do with the effects of any drug and one that we all have the power to influence — and that’s stigma. Stigma is insidious. It creates isolation that can reinforce addiction’s hold. Stigma traps people. That’s why our approach to society’s most challenging issues is so vitally important.We must ensure there are options for people, because we know there isn’t one single pathway to hope, there are many. For some, it’s abstinence-based recovery. For others, it’s medication-assisted treatment. For Indigenous people, that path often involves reconnecting to land, family and culture.As minister of mental health and addictions, I have seen first-hand why having options is essential. And I know that advocating for only one option has the impact of abandoning those on a different healing path. The important thing is that when someone is ready to walk their path, they don’t walk it alone.In Maple Ridge, I’m proud of the work our government is doing to support people to find their pathway to healing. We’re taking action to support people struggling with housing and mental-health challenges by embedding mental health supports directly into housing supports.As part of the new supportive housing in Maple Ridge, Coast Mental Health will provide 24-hour mental health support. Additional on-site services will include a nurse available seven days a week working with community partners to provide medication assisted treatment, and on-site detox services. Fraser Health will also provide clinical services including psychiatry, primary care, counselling and palliative care for residents as needed. Other supports include counselling, life skills, employment programming, as well as daily meals. Housing and access to food are basic elements that we often take for granted.We are expanding modular and supportive housing across the province in communities like Prince George, Kamloops, Chilliwack, Vernon, Abbotsford, Surrey, Port Alberni, Maple Ridge and more. Because of these critical supports, many people will no longer have to worry about where they’ll sleep each night, and they will have access to the mental-health and substance use supports they need.Building housing for the homeless — with wraparound health and social supports — is critical to enabling people to rebuild their lives. When you have a home — and the supports you need — it has a positive impact on the whole community.As a government, we recognize the need to tackle poverty and homelessness and improve access to mental-health and addictions care through a unified, co-ordinated approach. I’m proud that we are taking action to do just that.We know that making life better for the most vulnerable people in B.C. means making it better for everyone.Judy Darcy is B.C. minister of mental health and addictions.
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