‘I’m speech­less’

U-Turn head shocked at Vic­to­ria’s de­ci­sion to have pub­lic vote on plan to set up re­cov­ery, tran­si­tional house

The Western Star - - Front Page - BY ROSIE MULLALEY

The num­bers paint a stark pic­ture of a wors­en­ing opi­oid cri­sis in Canada — a 19 per cent in­crease in opi­oid-re­lated hos­pi­tal­iza­tions in the last two years.

On the same day the Cana­dian In­sti­tute for Health In­for­ma­tion (CIHI) re­leased the re­port, the head of a busy ad­dic­tion treat­ment cen­tre in this prov­ince says he’s shocked that a nearby town coun­cil is not step­ping up to help.

Jeff Bourne, ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor of U-Turn Drop-In Cen­tre in Car­bon­ear, said the group had pre­sented a busi­ness plan to set up a tran­si­tion house for re­cov­er­ing ad­dicts in Vic­to­ria.

The cen­tre — which would be lo­cated in a build­ing that was do­nated to them by the own­ers — would house re­cov­er­ing ad­dicts who have al­ready been through the ini­tial treat­ment pro­grams and are look­ing to rein­te­grate into so­ci­ety.

“It would give them the ex­tra sup­port they need get­ting their lives back on track,” Bourne said.

A no­tice had been mailed to the town’s 1,600 res­i­dents to in­form them of the plan and to give them the op­por­tu­nity to re­spond.

But Bourne was shocked when, dur­ing a Vic­to­ria town coun­cil meet­ing Tues­day night, coun­cil­lors in­stead de­cided to have the res­i­dents de­cide by spe­cial bal­lot — de­spite only six peo­ple ex­press­ing writ­ten con­cerns about it.

“I’m speech­less. I blown away with their process,” he said. “That doesn’t sit well with me. Only six peo­ple had con­cerns, so I don’t think a spe­cial bal­lot is the ap­pro­pri­ate route to fol­low.”

Bourne said coun­cil­lors told him that he has to go out in the com­mu­nity to cam­paign for the plan at the same time can­di­dates are cam­paign­ing for the mu­nic­i­pal elec­tion.

“We’re work­ing, giv­ing our guts to put other re­sources in place to help peo­ple. This is a pro­vin­cial and na­tional cri­sis we’re deal­ing with. For coun­cil to use this as a mu­nic­i­pal plat­form, it doesn’t sit right with me,” said Bourne, a res­i­dent of Vic­to­ria, adding that af­ter­care is a key com­po­nent in deal­ing with the opi­oid cri­sis.

“If I wanted to go on the cam­paign trail, I would’ve run for coun­cil.”

Bourne said he is us­ing so­cial me­dia to get the word out about the im­por­tance of the tran­si­tion house.

“It’s that word — ad­dic­tions — that con­cerns peo­ple, but peo­ple have to re­al­ize that ad­dic­tions af­fects ev­ery­one. The dis­ease of ad­dic­tions is go­ing to come knock­ing on every­body’s door and peo­ple are go­ing to wish they had a place for them to go,” he said.

“But I be­lieve the com­mu­nity will sup­port this. The peo­ple of Vic­to­ria are lov­ing, kind, car­ing peo­ple who are al­ways there to help oth­ers. I’m con­fi­dent they will do the proper thing and help give peo­ple a sec­ond chance.”

Mean­while, Bourne is not sur­prised at CIHI’s newly re­leased re­port, which in­cludes sta­tis­tics that show an av­er­age of 11.3 peo­ple per 100,000 were hos­pi­tal­ized due to opi­oid poi­son­ing. In fact, he thought the num­ber would be higher.

He said the prob­lem is “over­whelm­ing,” and while the gov­ern­ment rec­og­nizes it’s a ma­jor prob­lem, more needs to be done to com­bat it.

“It’s a slow process,” he said. “There’s al­ways more im­prove­ment needed.”

Bourne

SALTWIRE NET­WORK FILE PHOTO

U-Turn Drop-in Cen­tre ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor Jeff Bourne ad­dresses the au­di­ence at a pub­lic meet­ing last year about the group’s pro­posal to set up a tran­si­tion house for re­cov­er­ing ad­dicts.

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