The Province - - ADVERTISMENT - Dr. Shan­non McDon­ald, Deputy Chief Med­i­cal Of­fi­cer, First Na­tions Health Au­thor­ity

How to pre­vent the spread of sub­stance use.

T he First Na­tions Health Au­thor­ity (FNHA) re­leased data show­ing that First Na­tions peo­ples, par­tic­u­larly First Na­tions and Abo­rig­i­nal women, are over­rep­re­sented in the cur­rent BC over­dose public health emer­gency. This data, paired with sto­ries from com­mu­ni­ties, presents an ur­gent need for ac­tion.

There have been many char­ac­ter­i­za­tions of this cri­sis. I would en­cour­age our fam­ily mem­bers, com­mu­nity lead­ers, and health sys­tem part­ners to join me in rec­og­niz­ing this as a pain prob­lem rather than a drug prob­lem. The pain is some­times phys­i­cal and more of­ten spir­i­tual or emo­tional. This pain is be­ing com­pounded by the con­di­tions in which many of our ci­ti­zens are liv­ing.

It is of­ten said that a so­ci­ety can be mea­sured by how it treats ci­ti­zens liv­ing in vul­ner­a­ble con­di­tions. Ev­i­dence shows that First Na­tions and Abo­rig­i­nal peo­ple, es­pe­cially those who are us­ing sub­stances, are less likely to seek med­i­cally nec­es­sary treat­ment be­cause they have ex­pe­ri­enced dis­crim­i­na­tion and stigma. As Deputy Chief Med­i­cal Of­fi­cer, I en­cour­age my col­leagues work­ing in health and so­cial ser­vices, and all BC res­i­dents, to learn more about the his­toric and cur­rent root causes of sub­stance use among Abo­rig­i­nal peo­ple. A com­pas­sion­ate ap­proach A harm-re­duc­tion ap­proach is based on un­con­di­tional love for peo­ple who use sub­stances. Shame and stigma can fur­ther con­tribute to sub­stance use, rather than sup­port­ing res­o­lu­tion. There are ac­tions that we can take to­day. As health care providers we can re­spond to this cri­sis from a place of hu­mil­ity. We can rec­og­nize that as well-trained as we are, we don’t have all the an­swers. We can com­mit to im­prov­ing health ser­vices and en­sur­ing that they are cul­tur­ally safe and re­spect­ful, free of racism and dis­crim­i­na­tion, and in­clu­sive of First Na­tions’ per­spec­tives on well­ness such as tra­di­tional healing prac­tices.

The FNHA sup­ports this harm-re­duc­tion ap­proach to the over­dose cri­sis. Along with our health gover­nance part­ners — the First Na­tions Health Council and the First Na­tions Health Direc­tors As­so­ci­a­tion — we call on all Bri­tish Columbians to join us on a jour­ney to­wards a more un­der­stand­ing and com­pas­sion­ate so­ci­ety, one based in re­spect and kind­ness.

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