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

Death and dessert: North Delta library to host end-of-life discussion group

“I realized it’s just not something that … is really talked about, unless maybe you’re at a funeral.”

Old bikes become new trikes at North Deltas’ Seaquam Secondary

High school students will be using bike parts to make three-wheeled human-powered vehicles

Man found face-down beside motorcycle on 24 Avenue

Shortly after their arrival, Surrey firefighters had the man sitting and speaking

Coffee with a Cop held in South Surrey

‘Sensational media,’ hazards, and inner-workings of RCMP discussed

White Rock taxpayers on the hook for Memorial Park upgrades delay

Mayor says the province is ‘waffling’ on granting permission to go ahead with project

VIDEO: Sears liquidation sales continue across B.C.

Sales are expected to continue into the New Year

New B.C. acute care centre opens for young patients, expectant mothers

Facility aims to make B.C. Children’s Hospital visits more comfortable

Search ramps up for B.C. woman after dog, car found near Ashcroft

Jenny Lynn Larocque’s vehicle and dog were found in Venables Valley, but there is no sign of her

Holy Heritage Rail Batman: Superheros come to Cloverdale historic train

The Fraser Valley Heritage Rail is hosting its third annual Halloween rail adventure Oct 28, 29

Surrey Eagles prep for road tilt with first-place Vernon Vipers

After a Friday night game against Wenatchee, the Birds take aim at BCHL leaders Saturday

Police officer hit by car, stabbed in Edmonton attack back on job

Const. Mike Chernyk, 48, returned to work Thursday

UBC medical students learn to care for Indigenous people

Students in health-related studies to take course, workshop to help better serve Aboriginal people

Dorsett has 2 goals, assist in Canucks’ 4-2 win over Sabres

‘It was a real good hockey game by our group,’ Canucks coach Travis Green said.

Berry disappointed: Bear tries to eat fake fruit on woman’s door wreath

A Winnipeg woman has taken her berry-embellished wreath down, after a hungry bear visited her porch

Most Read