Should the City of Delta have drug detox and overdose prevention sites?
That’s among many questions remaining to be answered following the province’s all-party Select Standing Committee on Health releasing its report this week on the drug toxicity and overdose crisis.
Containing 37 recommendations, the report, Closing Gaps, Reducing Barriers: Expanding the response to the toxic drug and overdose crisis, notes that the committee heard that services such as overdose prevention sites and drug checking are critical to reducing the harms associated with substance use and preventing deaths.
“Overdose prevention sites provide individuals with a sense of connection and offer opportunities to refer people to other services, including treatment; however, there remain communities without overdose prevention sites, sometimes due to local resistance,” the report notes.
Among other issues, the report notes that the committee heard that those seeking treatment for substance use face barriers, such as wait lists, fees and programs that do not account for the variety of circumstances in which people find themselves.
“It was repeatedly noted that when an individual is seeking care, it is imperative that services be immediately available. As such, the Committee recommends a substantial increase in publicly funded and accredited treatment and recovery beds and detox services, while ensuring a variety of treatment options exist that account for individual and family needs,” the report adds.
Social Profile already identified challenges
Released in 2017, a report on Delta’s Social Profile noted Fraser Health provides services for prevention, treatment and resources for all ages, as well as for many related programs.
Working collaboratively with Delta Police and the Delta School District, the city funds a counsellor to work with families of high-risk offending individuals to attempt to break the cycle of addiction, crime and damage.
However, the profile report noted that many programs offered in Surrey and North Delta are now needed throughout Delta, as incidence of addiction and substance use is not specific to any one geographic area, community or socio-economic sphere.
“Delta does not have the quantity of incidents or needs that communities with higher populations have, however, the same needs exist all over the lower mainland. This is especially true for incidents of drug use and addiction,” the report noted.
The report goes on to explain that Delta agencies, such as Deltassist, Little House Society, Boys and Girls Clubs and Pacific Community Resources Society, provide many services to address substance use and addiction using a variety of treatment models.
“There are, however, areas of need in Delta that are not met by current funding or agencies. Delta residents would benefit from programs that would provide quick access for youth and adults seeking detox treatment and overnight programs for emergency situations. As with other Delta social agencies, access between the north and south can be difficult; often requiring a duplication of resources. Delta residents are not encouraged to use agencies outside the Fraser Health catchment area unless a specific program is not provided locally,” the report added.
As far as services, the report noted there’s no substance abuse treatment day or residential programs for youth in Delta, while there are long waiting lists for residential detox where it is provided. There are also limited options for assisted living housing or residential supports in Delta, fewer services available for seniors with addiction issues, increasing numbers of individuals with concurrent disorders (substance abuse and other mental health issues), limited funding available for prevention-based resources for families and an increasing need for more male and family counsellors.
Social Action Plan being updated
Released earlier this year, a draft of Delta’s new Social Action Plan posed the question, “How do we support our residents who are using drugs and experiencing addictions? How do we ensure that people do not feel stigmatized and feel able to seek the help they need? These are the questions for which we are seeking answers?”
That report noted many of the overdoses in Delta are taking place in homes or workplaces, with a high concentration of suspected overdoses and addictions in the construction and trades sectors. It presents unique challenges in developing city-wide interventions and support systems for residents who need help accessing resources.
The report also notes that stigma can have a tremendous effect on people affected by mental health issues or those using drugs, as well as their ability to seek help. The language we use about mental health and substance use can have a direct and profound impact on reducing stigma.
The report also reiterated that there is limited access to community data which could provide a better understanding of the effectiveness of overdose response mechanisms in Delta.
The draft Social Action Plan also notes there are long wait lists at government agencies for Delta residents who need mental health help, particularly for children and youth, and limited funding available for prevention-based resources for families.
The Select Standing Committee’s report notes that in BC, overdose is the primary cause of death for people ages 19-to-39 and the third most likely cause of death for those aged under 19 years of age.
Early interventions in the lives of children and youth were identified as being essential to preventing substance use.
Delta's draft Social Action Plan outlines several objectives including improving community awareness about the mental health and harm reduction services and programs available to residents, improving local access to local mental health and harm reduction services to youth at risk and supporting and enhancing community capacities to address the needs of those affected by mental health or substance use disorders.
The report goes over some of the initiatives in the city including the Delta Community Action Team, a community-driven collaborative group, co-chaired by Deltassist and Fraser Health and funded by the Province of British Columbia.
Since 2019, the Delta School District has increased its capacity to support students’ mental health by assembling the Prevention and School Wellness Team.
In 2021, the city engaged Delta Police, the school district, Fraser Health and Tsawwassen First Nation in developing public awareness initiatives, called the “End the Stigma” and “Share Your Story” campaigns.
Among the key messages at the End the Stigma Community Forum, held at North Delta Secondary earlier this year, was that people who use substances are not defined by their drug use, punitive thinking by others can distort the reality of what's happening in someone's life and that agencies and entire communities must work together to help end stigma to make it easier for people to access support and treatment.
Another message that was reiterated was that people with a problem need to be seen and heard without bias.