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FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. – Peace River North MLA Dan Davies says residents must address the stigma surrounding drug use and overdose to prevent toxic drug deaths.

Davies is a member of the Select Standing Committee of Health with the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia. His remarks come after the committee released a report on the drug toxicity crisis on Tuesday.

“We have a preconceived notion of who we think is the person overdosing, and it’s not who most people think it is. Young men working in the resource sector are predominantly the people that are dying,” Davies said.

Northeast B.C. has the highest per capita death rate for overdose deaths, making this issue close to home for him.

“When someone passes away of cancer, heart disease or kidney disease, people will talk about that, raising awareness of those issues. But if someone tragically dies of an overdose, there’s silence. Nobody wants to talk about it,” he continued.

The committee’s 75-page report contains 37 recommendations to end the public health emergency.

One of those recommendations is an increase in funding for public awareness and anti-stigma initiatives.

“I think one of the biggest steps is to move this issue into a healthcare issue. I think it’s important to work around that whole stigma piece that is keeping this in the closet. This is why people are dying at home alone,” Davies said.

He adds that he’d like to see more resources in the Peace region, which is disproportionately impacted by this crisis and doesn’t have any detox services locally.

He says he’s heard from “numerous” people who have taken the first step to get help, only to be told they’d have to wait a few weeks to get treatment in Prince George.

“That doesn’t work. That’s a death sentence to that person. So we need the government to be stepping up and looking at creative ways to get people into the treatment they need and make sure that the resources are available here,” he said.

In August 2022, Northeast B.C. reported one overdose, bringing the death toll in the region to 15 so far this year. The month with the most drug toxicity deaths recorded in the region was January 2022, with five.

Other recommendations within the report include scaling up the continuum of care to include housing, employment, income and mental health supports, funding Indigenous-led and Indigenous-designed trauma-informed services and expanding supports and resources to family members of people who use drugs, including those who have lost loved ones to the overdose crisis.

To view the Health Committee’s full report, click here.

Energeticcity.ca recently started Code Grey, a series delving into the issues facing health care in Northeast B.C. Part two was released last week, while part one was released in late September.

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Spencer HallInvestigative Reporter

Spencer Hall is a news reporter for energeticcity.ca and a recent graduate of the British Columbia Institute of Technology’s Radio Arts & Entertainment program. Growing up in Northwest B.C. made Spencer aware of the importance of local journalism, independent media, and reconciliation. In his spare time, you can find Spencer reading, playing video games, or at the FSJ dog park with his dog, Teddy.