Overdose crisis prompts discussion from doctors and police
By Greg Waldock, Staff Writer
On March 30, Douglas College hosted its second Urban Challenges panel: Fentanyl: Breaking the Cycle.
The panel was hosted by the SFU Faculty of Health Sciences’ Dr. Julian Somers and New Westminster Chief Constable Dave Jones. Together, they covered the basics of the ongoing Vancouver fentanyl crisis and the difficulties in educating people on the drug’s risk.
Somers broke up the overdose cases into two groups of people: ordinary people who are overprescribed and undereducated on opioids, and homeless people with pre-existing mental health issues, disabilities, traumas, or addictions. Each group, Somers explained, needs a different governmental approach. People with homes and jobs need to be educated on the dangers of opioid dependency, and homeless people need shelter in order to receive more regular medical care.
Jones discussed the changing role of the police in Vancouver over the last two decades, from law enforcement to life preservation as deaths from drug overdose overwhelms a healthcare system that is not built to adequately deal with the problem. He also emphasized the need for doctors to educate their patients on the withdrawal and addictiveness of opioid prescriptions.
Both encouraged the need for solutions to homelessness, the de-stigmatization of mental health issues, and an awareness of the humans behind the increasing overdose statistics in Metro Vancouver.