While many of us have been focused on the COVID-19 pandemic, a second public health crisis has been going on for many years. Far too many B.C. families are losing loved ones to the toxic drug supply, which continues to claim the lives of more than seven per day.
This is far from a big city problem.
In fact, the health service delivery area that includes the Cariboo reported one of the highest death rates from illicit drug toxicity in the entire province in 2021.
The Official Opposition has called on the NDP government to reduce waitlists for treatment, create more beds for withdrawal management, and make services more affordable for people. Sadly, the NDP’s patchwork approach isn’t working.
Additionally, the NDP has failed to create more affordable housing options, which was an election promise that hasn’t seen much progress.
It is heartbreaking the staggering number of people experiencing homelessness in our province — more than 8,600 people according to the recent homeless count.
In Williams Lake we’ve seen a 19 per cent increase in people experiencing homelessness since just 2018, and the Cariboo region has one of the highest rates of homelessness based on population.
When it comes to helping our vulnerable citizens, no matter what circumstances they are facing, government must put a rural lens on solutions to assist communities outside of the Lower Mainland.
A lack of transportation options may prevent people from physically getting to facilities offering the services they require. And harsh weather conditions can be dangerous to those living on the street, putting them at risk for frostbite and even death.
We need to ensure that social support workers and the resources they offer can meet vulnerable individuals where they are — rather than expect people struggling with mental health, addiction or homelessness to travel great distances to get the care they need. It’s up to the government to ensure our rural communities are equipped to offer this kind of support, to everyone who needs it.