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Christy Clark asks feds for more support to combat opioid 'crisis'
Published Thursday, November 17, 2016 10:11AM PST Last Updated Thursday, November 17, 2016 11:36AM PST
The B.C. premier says urgent help is needed from the federal government to deal with the growing opioid "crisis" sweeping British Columbia and the rest of Canada.
Speaking to reporters at a press conference in Ottawa, Christy Clark says the problem is "coming to a street corner near you" and more coordinated resources are needed in the face of a public health emergency.
Clark says RCMP drug enforcement is down 30 per cent in B.C., and "we need boots on the ground from law enforcement" to help with the public safety aspects of stopping the spread of the drug.
There have been 5,000 non-fatal overdoses at St. Paul's Hospital in downtown Vancouver alone this year, Clark says.
"We need to make sure that the people leaving that hospital are surrounded by a community of care, or else they'll end up back at the hospital, or worse, found dead in a bathtub."
British Columbia is the frontline for the drug because of its close proximity to China, Clark says, adding that a province-by-province model isn't cutting it.
“Drug enforcement is a national responsibility,” she said.
"If this was any other toxic substance, coming into our country from a foreign nation, from a foreign land, that was killing hundreds of our children this response would have been a lot quicker.”
She says more than ever, the crisis adds urgency to federal government regulations regarding marijuana, because fentanyl is now being found in pot.
She's calling for the feds to ban pill presses across the country, and increased capacity for CBSA to be able to search packages coming through the border into B.C.
Clark feels that the country has been slow to act on the fentanyl crisis because it is linked to drug addiction, and that carries a stigma.
Judy Robertson of the Vancouver substance abuse support group From Grief to Action, whose 23-year-old stepson struggled with opioid use, told reporters that more education is needed.
Robertson says people are in denial about the fact that the deadly drug is affecting more people's lives.
"It's in all neighbourhoods, it's in all walks of life. It could be your child. It could be your sister's child," she said.
"I'm fortunate my stepson is still alive."