Madam Chair, it is an honour to join the debate and speak on behalf of the constituents I represent in Central Okanagan—Similkameen—Nicola.
I will begin the debate by sharing an event that a father recently shared with me. Roughly one month ago, this father discovered some very serious drug paraphernalia in his teenager's bedroom. The drugs were opioids. There were small discarded baggies, needles, cookers and even a tourniquet, to all the more accurately target a bulging artery. Obviously, when needles and ongoing injections become involved, this all points to very serious drug use. This father was deeply traumatized by this discovery. Ultimately, to his horror and disgust, he would later learn that all of this drug paraphernalia did not come courtesy of the local drug dealer; it was all supplied by the local health authority.
Why would a health authority supply tools to enable successful drug use, he asked. It is a question that many ask when they learn about this little-known program. It is called a safe injection kit and it is increasingly used in areas where a safe injection site has yet to be established.
I am not here to debate kids being given safe injection kits so they can inject heroin. I am here to point out that many health providers are currently making it very easy to use drugs, but not so easy to get off drugs. In the Okanagan, as an example, there is one publicly funded residential youth detox facility for the entire region, with a wait-list to get in. However, for those who do manage to get in and are successfully discharged, they need a residential treatment facility. Once again, very few are available and all have long wait-lists. It is not uncommon for teenagers in the Okanagan to have to travel to Vancouver, away from their families, and support networks for drug rehabilitation. This is wrong on every level.
Many teens waiting to get in basically have one of two options: methadone treatment, which, in itself, is yet another powerful and addictive drug, or, more recently, Suboxone. However, in each of these cases, there needs to be either a clinic or prescribing doctor on these programs. Once again, there is a huge shortage of physicians who subscribe prescriptions for opioid maintenance programs.
To recap my comments so far, the local health authority hands out free kits to help people inject opioids such as heroin, but if they need a youth detox centre, they wait in line. If they need a rehabilitation centre, preferably immediately upon discharge from detox, once again they must wait in line or be prepared to travel 400 to 500 kilometres or more. If they need a Suboxone prescribing doctor, I wish them good luck finding one. More commonly, they might find a methadone clinic. Is it any wonder relapse rates are so depressingly high? We make drugs easy to use, but getting help not so much.
Now we have naloxone, because when people use powerful opioids, it is only a matter of time until they overdose. Naloxone saves lives. We see it increasingly distributed throughout British Columbia, but, ultimately, we have to take a step back and pause. We give away free kits to make it easy to use drugs, we give away free kits to help stop people from dying from a drug overdose, but the most important part, getting the help people need, is where there is a huge shortage and they must wait in line.
If a health authority can open a safe injection site, why can it not, at the same time, open a detox centre, along with a rehabilitation centre? Why are safe injection sites opening up at a much faster rate than detox or rehabilitation facilities? These are the questions we must start to ask and demand changes on. That is why I have joined this debate tonight on behalf of those families in my riding who are facing some of life's greatest challenges and families that have lost loved ones to an opioid addiction. Let us work together to create more services and find a solution.
I have heard some very passionate speeches here tonight and I know that many people have put considerable time and resources into them. Not all of us are at that level, but I hope we can all recognize there is a problem and through dialogue and exchanging of views, we can come to understand we want good things to happen in this country, but we need to recognize when people have legitimate concerns on both sides of the debate. I see there is some willingness here tonight and I hope that this debate can move forward in a way that we as Canadians can feel proud of and know that our children and family members can benefit from the work we do here tonight.