Health Minister Terry Lake.

Fraser youth detox beds plunged but set to rebound

Health Minister Terry Lake rejects NDP criticism of government response to deadly drug overdose crisis

Health Minister Terry Lake is dismissing NDP accusations that the B.C. government allowed the number of youth addiction beds to plummet in Fraser Health over the past three years as fatal drug overdoses began to spike.

The NDP released government records obtained through freedom of information showing a 25 per cent drop in youth substance use beds between 2013 and March of 2016. The drop was worst in Fraser, where the number of available youth addiction beds fell more than 50 per cent over the same period, from 22 to 10 beds.

NDP mental health critic Sue Hammell said the province should have realized overdose deaths were climbing in those years and taken swifter action, rather than waiting until the eve of the next provincial election to try to deliver on a 2013 campaign promise to add 500 addiction beds by 2017.

RELATED: B.C.’s drug overdose death toll climbs to 488

“They knew the numbers were increasing – that’s why they promised an increased number of beds,” Hammell said.

As of the end of August, 488 B.C. residents had died from fatal illicit drug overdoses and the death toll could top 700 by the end of the year.

“This is the equivalent of two 747s crashing at the airport,” Hammell said. “It’s a huge number of lives being lost to addiction and overdoses and we’re cutting the services to youth. It doesn’t make sense.”

But Lake said Fraser lost 11 beds because a youth substance use facility in Keremeos jointly used by Fraser and Vancouver Coastal Health had to be closed due to issues with the operator.

Those 22 beds will come back on stream when the Keremeos facility reopens in 2017, he said, along with other planned increases, including a new 10-bed youth stabilization unit at Surrey Memorial Hospital.

Lake said by the end of 2017, B.C. will have 102 mental health beds and 195 substance use beds for young people up to age 25.

By the end of 2017, Fraser Health will have 42 substance use beds for young people, he said, up from 22 in 2012.

Lake said the overdose death crisis was not apparent a couple of years ago and only was declared a public health emergency this April.

He also rejected suggestions the B.C. government has not acted decisively, pointing to its task force and its efforts to make naloxone much more widely available to reverse opioid overdoses.

“We have saved hundreds of lives,” Lake said. “That seems to be missing in this discussion. Yes we have 400 people who have died. But if we hadn’t acted quickly and done what we had done, we would have lost hundreds more.”

There have been 172 drug overdose deaths as of the end of August in the Fraser region.

Across B.C., there have been six overdose deaths so far this year of victims aged 10 to 18, and another 121 aged 19 to 29.

Just Posted

VIDEO: Surrey Vaisakhi Parade floods Newton streets

Hundreds of thousands of people attended the annual event

Setting the stage for emerging performers

Variety fundraiser and ongoing open-mics showcase local talent

VAISAKHI EXPLAINED: Founding of the Khalsa was a seminal event in Sikh history

There are five K’s – articles of faith – worn by baptized Sikhs

Four Surrey students head to New Brunswick for Canada-wide science fair

Three projects move to nationals following regional fair at KPU

Man ‘seriously’ injured in crash after driving wrong way on Highway 17: Surrey RCMP

Police say the sedan hit a transport truck, then another car

Dashcam captures close call between minivan, taxi at busy Vancouver intersection

To make the footage more nerve-wracking, a pedestrian can be seen standing at the corner

VIDEO: Fan support almost deafening as Giants take Game 2 in finals

Vancouver G-Men cap comeback with thrilling third period to beat Spokane 4-2 on home ice in Langley

Waste not: Kootenay brewery leftovers feed the local food chain

Spent grains from the Trail Beer Refinery are donated to local farmers and growers, none go to waste

Deck collapses in Langley during celebration, 35 people injured

Emergency responders rushed to the Langley home

B.C. mom wages battle to get back four kids taken from her in Egypt

Sara Lessing of Mission has help from Abbotsford law firm

VIDEO: Fire guts Peachland home

Crews are still on scene pumping water onto the blaze in the Okanagan neighbourhood

$6K raised in one day’s time for family of woman gunned down in Penticton

GoFundMe launched for family of Darlene Knippelberg, to pay for funeral costs and other expenses

B.C. mountain biker sent home from hospital twice, despite broken vertebrae

Released in Maple Ridge to go home with three fractured vertebrae

Seven tips to travel safely this Easter long weekend

An average of three people are killed, and hundreds more injured, each Easter long weekend in B.C.

Most Read

l -->