B.C.’s safer supply drug program review gets reaction from frontline

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Teresa Reeves knows everyone here.

Now an outreach worker, the former addict understands what it’s like to be out on the street.

“I’m a recovering addict, 24 years, addict for 10. And when I decided when it was time for me, I reached out for treatment, did treatment, got onto the methadone, and that worked for me. It was my savior, to be honest,” Reeve said Friday.

On Thursday, B.C. Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry released her report on B.C.’s safer supply drug program that includes prescribing pharmaceutical heroin and fentanyl to people with substance disorder.

READ MORE: Health officer advises B.C. to offer smokable fentanyl in report backing safer supply

Reeve says it’s a step in the right direction. “I think if people were given an option to get fentanyl, or powdered heroin through a doctor, they would actually seek out and go see that doctor.”

The ministry of health estimates there are roughly 115,000 opioid addicts in the province.

B.C.’s safer supply program started in 2020, dispensing hydromorphone as a way to address the toxic drug crisis.

But it doesn’t work for many of the 4,300 people enrolled in the program.

These men are skeptical that pharmaceutical alternatives to street drugs will have the impact health officials desire.

Mike Pindar has lived on the streets of Victoria for more than eight years, and is an opioid user.

“It’s not about skepticism. It’s about reality. It’s about living it.  It’s about, show us what you are talking about. What have they done for the homeless community?” he said.

Ryan Thomas is unhoused, but not an opioid user. He is hopeful that the addition of prescribed alternatives might work.

“What do you mean by it’s going to be clean? Like, it’s going to be straight heroin? Straight heroin? Yeah, that might help. It might help,” Thomas said.

There’s a sliver of hope that perhaps, this time, with these new changes, there will be help.

“I’ll tell you one thing, whatever they are doing, keep doing it. Because you know what? They really need it. They really do,” said Benji Hunter, who has friends addicted to opioids.

“We’re losing people like every day. What these drugs that they are using right now, after a couple of years use, is just heartbreaking. Like, we’ve got to find a better solution,” Reeve said.

After a record number of deaths last year suggesting it’s time to move toward providing clean drugs like heroin, and fentanyl, to users.

And a former provincial health officer, Dr. Perry Kendall, agrees, something needs to change, even if it’s difficult.

“I honestly don’t think we are going to make progress, reducing deaths, or reducing addiction, or displacing the toxic market unless we start moving into some of these politically uncomfortable areas,” Dr. Kendall said.

Because health officials says users need to be alive to seek treatment, and get the help they need.

WATCH: Victoria doctor calls for return of witnessed safe supply of drugs

Mary GriffinMary Griffin

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