COLUMN: Can’t stop the greed, but may save a life

Opiod crisis showing no sign of slowing down

The opioid crisis shows no sign of abating – in Surrey, in White Rock and across the country.

Health authorities have been devoting a lot of time, energy and money towards dealing with the crisis, which last year saw 139 people die of overdoses in Surrey. A new rapid-access care centre is set to open next year. The federal government has allowed more safe injection sites to open, so that if drug users are ingesting tainted drugs, they can be helped quickly.

The first site here, SafePoint, opened last June on 135A Street on the Whalley strip. The second is located at the Quibble Creek Sobering and Assessment Centre, near Surrey Memorial Hospital.

Surrey Fire Service has also adopted software that looks at data from dispatch calls in real time for signs of overdose ‘clusters,’ to enable faster responses and best deployment of resources.

A total of 1,156 people died from overdoses in 2017 in B.C. – a 73 per cent increase over the 670 deaths in 2016.

Even one death is too many, a point emphasized at a recent memorial to a 26-year-old who died in his home.

This young man was a hard-working, well-liked athlete, representing Surrey at the national level. For whatever reason (his family has no idea what that reason was), he decided to take drugs one evening after arriving home from work.

He was found unresponsive and, despite strenuous efforts by first responders, did not survive.

His former coach is a Surrey firefighter. In a no-nonsense way, he laid out some tough medicine for those attending the memorial. He paid tribute to the young man, his athletic ability, his sense of fun and his loyalty. He also said that taking the drugs, likely laced with fentanyl, was a very bad decision. That decision not only took the young man’s life, but left his family and friends reeling.

The former coach told his audience, many of whom had worked or played sports with this young man, that taking drugs far too often leads to this result. He reminded them that their families and friends are the ones most painfully affected.

And he told them that while he was writing out what to say at the memorial, three overdose calls came in over the fire department’s dispatch system.

Is there a simple answer to this crisis? No, of course not. People will continue to take drugs, and criminals will not only sell them but will have no compunction about lacing them with fentanyl and killing off their customers. It’s all in the name of greed and complete insensitivity to others.

All levels of government are reacting to this crisis, and while there is always more they can do, none of them can stop people from taking drugs laced with fentanyl.

This crisis has hit many families in our area. The effects will be long-lasting. For their sakes, all of us who know anyone who may be taking such substances needs to speak up, ask for help and do their best to save the lives of those affected.

It’s the least we can do.

Frank Bucholtz writes Wednesdays for Peace Arch News.

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