Imagine if 23 people killed on Malahat in one year

Officials are being cagey about just where they plan to put an overdose prevention site in Duncan.

Officials are being very cagey about just where they plan to put an overdose prevention site in Duncan.

And they will need to have their ducks in a row before facing any nearby residents upset with the site being located in their neighbourhood.

In June, Duncan city council already told Island Health they did not support at least one site that had been chosen. That opposition seems to have thrown the project into limbo.

But we must give a site a chance.

At least 23 people in the Cowichan Valley died in the last year and a half from overdoses. In 2015 there was just one overdose death for the entire year.

This is a public health crisis that, while it’s been in the news with everything from daunting statistics like those above to heart-wrenching personal stories from people who have lost loved ones, has not yet gotten the action from government needed to fix it.

It’s a thorny and comlex problem, no doubt.

Addressing the overdose crisis will take short-term measures such as overdose prevention sites, education, and distribution of naloxone kits. But it will also take far more middle-term fixes too, such as treatment beds and counselling to be available on a moment’s notice so as soon as an addict expresses any willingness they have access. And then there are the long-term fixes that involve addressing the causes of addiction and early intervention.

We’ve heard the opinion expressed that the folks who are dying are doing it to themselves and we shouldn’t have to spend any more public money to intervene. Now imagine if 23 people had been killed on the Malahat in traffic fatalities in a year. Think of how up-in-arms the people would be, even though many crashes are caused by things like speeding and impaired driving — in other words, we do it to ourselves. Each new Malahat crash is front-page news though, while addicts die more anonymously.

It certainly doesn’t make the one less important than the other. Making that kind of judgment on the relative value of people’s lives is something best left alone by all of us fallible human beings.

Cowichan Valley Citizen