Province defends response to overdose crisis in light of criticism from head of Vernon charitable foundation

At odds over OD crisis

The province and the head of a Vernon charitable organization don't see eye to eye over B.C.'s overdose crisis.

Sherman Dahl, who founded the Emily Dahl Foundation after the death of his daughter (not from addiction or drug issues), bashed provincial campaigns "promoting" the use of Naloxone to revive overdose victims.

In an email to local media, Dahl questioned the wisdom of the current approach to the crisis.

“This will never work and is simply causing more deaths and suffering in our society. It is very sad to see an organization like the BC Centre for Disease Control, that does have resources, show complete lack of understanding of the problem,” Dahl charged.

Dahl said officials should be addressing the root problems behind drug addiction.

“When people suffer, they look for these distractions in order to forget their pain. But these things only distract us temporarily from our suffering, they don't heal us,” Dahl wrote.

“This is not the kind of message you would expect from the Minister of Mental Health and Addictions.

“Those who are destroying themselves, their families, and their society by intoxicating themselves are not doing it intentionally. Their pain and loneliness are overwhelming, and they want to escape. They need to be helped,” Dahl said.

But, the Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions begs to differ.

“People need to be alive before they can begin addressing the root causes of their trauma and addiction through services such as counselling and supportive recovery," a ministry spokesperson said in an email to Castanet.

"Since 2017, the province has implemented a comprehensive package of health interventions and proven strategies to reduce overdoses and save lives. Efforts to expand overdose prevention services have averted nearly 6,000 deaths since April 2016, and approximately 75,800 Naloxone kits have been used to reverse overdoses since August 2012. Naloxone saves lives.

“Saving lives in the immediate through interventions such as Naloxone is just one part of our work. We are building a comprehensive system of mental health and addictions care from the ground up, with a strong focus on increasing access to treatment and recovery services, in addition to prevention by reaching more young people early to help stop small issues before they become large and complex.”

Since 2017, the ministry says the province has invested:

  • $2.3 million to expand suicide prevention programs to support Indigenous youth and post-secondary students.
  • $13.9 million for mental health initiatives in B.C. schools over four years.
  • $13.5 million for new treatment and recovery beds across the province.
  • $36 million to more than double youth treatment beds provincewide.
  • $10.5 million for overdose and treatment supports.

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