Scott Anderson.

BC Conservatives want taxes to pay for addictions treatment program

Interim leader Scott Anderson of Vernon said what’s being done now is not working

B.C.’s Conservative Party interim leader from Vernon is calling for a robust, provincewide addictions treatment program.

Scott Anderson said the program would be paid for by existing taxes.

“Harm reduction as a strategy should be viewed as the first step in a continuum of care that ends with active, abstinence-based recovery,” said Anderson. “The current strategy of harm reduction as an end in itself, with half-hearted attempts to supply “treatment” for addicted people who both want it and are able to wait from 48 hours to two weeks to get help, is simply not working.”

RELATED: Two sons lost to the opioid crisis, a mother calls for change

Anderson endorses the findings of “Strategies to Strengthen Recovery in British Columbia: The Path Forward,” by the BC Centre for Substance Abuse as a common sense approach to the problem. The study focuses on recovery, with abstinence as the end goal.

“Having dealt with addictions in both my family and almost daily as a municipal issue, it came as a real surprise to learn that the vast bulk of the provincial medical resources dedicated to addictions is devoted to harm reduction, with treatment relegated almost to the status of an afterthought, and usually entailing opioid replacement as an end in itself,” said Anderson. “As the study suggests, it’s time for a new path forward.”

Anderson said addictions experts’ belief that passing out free needles, supplying safe injection sites, and encouraging so-called “low barrier” shelters (which allow active drug use) is “nothing more than enabling if these policies are executed in the absence of a more comprehensive and robust recovery-based treatment regime.”

“It’s as if we’re trying to cure cigarette smoking by handing out cigarette holders and ashtrays,” said Anderson.

“We can keep taking the easy — and frankly cheapest — way out by focusing on harm reduction and continue ignoring the actual issue. But there is a better way and in the long run, it’ll save both money and heartbreak for the families involved.”

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The BC Conservative Party supports continuing funding for harm reduction efforts, but only within the context of a comprehensive strategy aimed at full recovery based on abstinence.

“What we’ve been doing isn’t working,” said Anderson. “It’s time to try something different.”

The BC Conservatives propose that funding is drawn from taxes on the sales of tobacco, gambling, alcohol, and a new tax on cannabis. The party suggests engaging the private sector by funding it through a regulated grant system.



roger@vernonmorningstar.com

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