Falcon promises $1.5 billion ‘no-cost recovery-oriented’ approach toward addiction
Kevin Falcon said a provincial government under his leadership would spend about $1.5 billion and open recovery centers across BC — not just in the Lower Mainland — to help those in need of treatment and recovery from drug use.
“We are talking about a very significant investment, executing almost $1 billion over three years and over half a billion in capital investments,” the opposition official leader said during a news conference in New Westminster today.
“That’s not a small amount of money. It won’t happen overnight. You have to make the investments, you have to build the system and make sure it’s installed quickly.”
Falcon announced those numbers during a visit to Westminster Housing Society as part of a “free recovery scheme” that would complement existing harm reduction efforts through treatment and recovery.
“My concern about this administration is that it is focused solely on going down the harm reduction path and openly minimizing or refusing treatment and recovery,” Falcon said. “If the whole goal of this NDP government is to help people sustain an addiction-related lifestyle, that’s not a good thing.
“Just breathing and being alive shouldn’t be our measure of success.”
At the heart of Falcon’s proposal is the creation of what he later described as a “modernized form of Riverview (hospital),” the former psychiatric facility that closed in 2012 after operating in the Lower Mainland for nearly a century. During its existence, it became, for some, shorthand for a hard-line approach to dealing with mental health issues.
While previous governments have dismantled institutions like Riverview for the right reasons, they have failed to help former patients, Falcon said.
“It is misplaced sympathy that society’s most vulnerable are abused and exploited on the streets while we pretend to care for their welfare.”
Falcon added that his administration would triple the 105 beds at the Red Fish Healing Center for Mental Health and Addiction, which opened on the former site of the Riverview Hospital under BC’s last Liberal administration. Centers like Red Fish would also open elsewhere.
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“I want to open regional locations in the North, in the Thompson-Okanagan, in the Kootenays, on Vancouver Island to ensure that … those dealing with really complex mental health challenges and addiction can go into a facility with compassion.” and love and the right care and attention they need and deserve,” he said.
Falcon said a government under his leadership would start making changes immediately, but added some of the proposed measures would take time.
“But people need to understand that already today we’re spending literally billions of dollars on the criminal justice system, the police system, the healthcare system … and many are actually not getting any better.”
Falcon’s announcement comes after a three-year process to decriminalize certain types of drugs for personal use that began on Monday (January 31) and after British coroner Lisa Lapointe criticized the government for failing to comply with recommendations dating back to the years 2017 and 2022 Improving treatment and recovery options for drug users.
Hours earlier, the BC Coroners’ Service announced that 2022 was the second deadliest year of BC’s poison drug crisis on record. Preliminary results show 2,272 people died from poisoned drugs last year – 34 deaths fewer than the record 2021 total.
Falcon said these numbers make it clear that the current approach doesn’t work when it comes to calling for radical change.
Elenore Sturko, the opposition MLA for Surrey South and shadow secretary for mental health, addiction, recovery and education, said her party supports decriminalization but accused the government of being irresponsible for failing to pair it with additional resources for treatment and recovery have.
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BC Legislative Opioid Crisis