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Saving lives to treat addiction

Dear Editor,

You can’t treat addiction without first saving lives.

The primary focus of our health-care system should be to save lives, which is exactly what supervised consumption sites do. Jason Luan of the UCP said, “They just keep talking about keeping you alive, reviving you from an overdose. Then we’ll do it again…. To me, that’s not the solution.” Those who have read my previous letters may be surprised to hear me say: he’s right. Supervised consumption sites are not the solution – they are just the first step.

The NDP acknowledges that, and it was part of the system the previous government put in place. Richard Freehan of the NDP points out the UCP resistance and review of supervised consumption sites ignores research and literature on addiction treatment and amounts to an ideological act that hurts those in need.

Supervised consumption sites save lives. This can’t really be disputed – even the comments of the UCP acknowledge this when Luan mentions the sites will revive someone from an overdose. That’s why they exist. Without these sites, people who overdose wouldn’t survive to get to treatment. Addiction treatments, from counselling to in-patient care, are also only part of the solution, because they only work if the patient is still alive.

The government absolutely should be focused on combating addiction and helping people return to healthy, productive lives, but shutting down supervised consumption sites won’t do that. The solution to the issue requires many steps, from keeping the people alive at these sites to educating them about how help exists, then providing medical supports to overcome the addiction, both physically and mentally.

I’m pleased to hear the government say it wants to work on addiction treatment, but if the UCP isn't willing to provide the social supports that treat the underlying causes of addiction – mental health, disability, poverty and more – and support consumption sites that keep people alive so they may one day seek treatment, it's empty words.

The NDP worked toward building a comprehensive plan to reduce addiction, which included amazing projects that reduced poverty rates, provided urgent mental-health care and, yes, supervised consumption sites. These policies were built around compassion and treating those who already were in need while also working to solve the issues that cause addiction to begin with.

I hope our current government would equally show compassion by supporting the social services the NDP put in place, which includes supervised consumption sites – in the end, they save people’s lives, and that is what our health-care system is about.

Steve Durrell



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