Princeton, we have a problem.
The community should now be well aware that two residents died in March due to fentanyl overdoses. The war on illegal drugs is being fought daily on our streets and in our hospital and medical clinic. And in our homes.
At the risk of making an addiction crisis appear even more apocalyptic, consider this:
Princeton and area has one of the highest rates of alcohol consumption in the province.
A University of Victoria study reveals that, per capita for persons over 15-years-old, Princeton and area residents consume 16.04 liters of pure alcohol a year.
That’s the equivalent of 930 standard drinks.
There are 89 local health areas in the province, and Princeton is ranked ninth for overall boozing.
As a matter of interest – and because it’s reassuring to know there are people who drink more than we do – Howe Sound residents consume the most in BC, 24.96 liters per year. Windermere is fairly saucy, tippling 22.57 liters. Under the heading “you can always visit your neighbors if you run out” the South Okanagan health area accounts for 1210 drinks per year, per capita.
These are troubling statistics to be sure. Canada-wide alcohol accounts for seven per cent of deaths (people under the age of 70) and seven per cent of all hospital stays, according to information published by the Center for Addiction and Mental Health.
Given this, it’s regrettable the community has staggered through 15 months without a proper home for its addiction and mental health program, the Anchorage.
Interior Health lost its drop in center here in January 2016. Despite genuine efforts to both re-establish a home and expand the program, there has been little progress so far.
Addiction rehab services are carried out from a room at the hospital, but the program – which offers things like art classes, exercise and opportunities to socialize – serves only 27 regular clients.
It is welcome news that Interior Health officials are visiting the town this week to scout a potential property for Anchorage.
However drug and alcohol addiction are not just the responsibility of the health authority.
Dr. Peter Entwistle, who is running as an independent candidate in this riding in the provincial election, told The Spotlight in an interview that communities struggle with addiction, in part, because of a lack of ownership and accountability.
In other words it takes leadership, and it takes people from all walks to come to the table. (And drink TEA. Tea will be served at this table.)
It takes the clergy, it takes municipal leaders, it takes service groups and educators and employers and law enforcement, health care workers and moms and dads.
While an examination of the question “How did we get here?” might be fascinating conversation, it’s more important now to discuss “How are we going to get out of here?”
Princeton is fortunate to have a vital Support Our Health Care Society, and a health care steering committee that encompasses stakeholders from many disciplines.
Perhaps these groups could take that critical leadership role.
At the very least there needs to be a public dialogue on addictions and how they impact our community. Perhaps that is where the media helps.
You see, the first step in solving a problem is admitting that you have one.