Port Alberni fights toxic drug crisis after becoming ‘third-worst death rate in province’

Port Alberni fights toxic drug crisis after becoming 'third-worst death rate in province'

Bianca LeBlond wiped away tears Wednesday as she listened to the new Alberni Valley plan to save lives in B.C.’s toxic drug crisis.

As a telephone operator for the Kuu-Us Crisis Line, she told CHEK News that she sees the suffering every day and also has a loved one struggling with addiction.

So, the Alberni woman is desperate for a lifeline.

“I have more faith, I think. Everything they said is amazing, but we still have to implement this, and how long is it going to take, right,” said Leblond, who is also the Team Lead at Kuu-Us Crisis Line.

Her small west coast city of Port Alberni is struggling through what was once a big city problem.

“Sadly, the numbers, the B.C. Coroner’s report came out last week, and that catapulted us to the third worst death rate in the province,” said Ron Merk, co-chair of the Port Alberni Community Action Team.

READ ALSO: Ending drug decriminalization won’t save lives, B.C. minister says on anniversary

A new joint plan, made up of input from the Tseshaht First Nation, the Port Alberni Community action team, front-line workers, and families who’ve lost loved ones, is calling for a local detox facility that won’t charge user fees to ensure quick access to drug users when they need it.

The group also wants to see transportation to treatment and housing and support to transition people out of addiction.

Les Doiron said quick access to detox would have saved his nephew Charles, who died two years ago waiting for detox.

“Charles was a son, he was a brother, he was a nephew, he was a cousin,” said Les Doiron, vice president of Nuu-Chah-Nulth Tribal Council.

“All those in the Alberni Valley are impacted, there’s not one person in the room here that isn’t impacted by this crisis. We’ve all lost or have somebody addicted, and we just want to support them, and this strategy is a bit of a pathway on how we get there,” said Ken Watts, Chief Councillor, Tseshaht First Nation.

“You go back and look at the stats 2016, we were 18 out of 100,000 people. Now we’re 102 out of 100,000 people. It’s just continued to climb,” said Merk.

So Alberni community members are united now with a plan that’s designed for this region’s unique needs and people, and according to Merk, they plan to get started on it right away.

“We have identified all the things we need, we have looked at all the solutions, we’ve come together as a community, and now we need the government to sit up and notice and help,” said Merk.

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