Having recently attended the public forum regarding the issue of homelessness and drugs, I walked away with a sense that there were a handful of temporary solutions offered, but mostly a lot of pent-up anger released—for both sides.
Thirteen years of living in Vernon is a relatively short time to note the alarming influx of illegal drug use (consequently overdose, mental illness, homelessness and increase in crime) plus recreational cannabis and vape shops. I would like to focus on one of the solutions discussed, which has become a cliched term “harm reduction.” This would include safe injection sites and/or overdose prevention sites, along with more resources to essentially support illegal drug use in a non-stigmatized environment. There are a lot of questions left unanswered regarding what harm reduction truly means. If a drug is illegal, why are we considering setting up a site where something illegal can be consumed in safety? Try explaining that concept to a child. I can think of little else more cruel than to support the use of illegal drugs in any manner, knowing the users are slowly killing themselves (because it is a slow death of mental, physical and emotional faculties). How does this solution place value on life? The statistics boast that these sites are saving lives, but I wonder how many of the lives saved are repeat overdoses? There may not be an argument against the fact that OPS do save lives, but … are lives being saved for healing or simply for another overdose? Isn’t the point to save lives from continuing in the same harmful pattern? Do we expect that a user who needs their fix now, will walk or find a ride to the specified safe sites?
Here are a few facts I discovered after reading more about harm reduction:
•We are no longer allowed to use stigmatizing words such as: drug abuse or addict. What shall we call it then?
•They are fighting for the reduction in criminalizing illicit drug use and any consequences that would be detrimental to the users health and general well being. Whatever happened to being responsible for the choices you make?
There are no requirements or commitments expected of you if you prefer to use drugs. Everything is free and safe, except for the illegal drugs.
We are in a real predicament. Why is there so much hype about harm reduction; my eyes show me something other than the optimistic statistics. How do you talk to users about their choices and its effects when all they want is another high? I just keep playing that oxymoron over in my head, “Here, let me show you my love and care by allowing you to hurt yourself in a safe place.” How can you truly help someone when it’s their right to hurt themselves? Hard questions!
I am all in favor of providing a place for addicts to find true freedom–freedom meaning no more drugs and an inner transformation. Where are the centres that will deal with the root of addiction? Lastly, our greatest failure as a society is that we have ignored and pushed away the creator and sustainer of life, God. It might just take Vernon getting to a greater crisis point to realize most of the solutions offered are Band-Aids; they don’t transform lives—they simply mask a deeper need that our present day harm reduction methodologies are unable to meet. Jesus Christ said, “Come to me all who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.”