British Columbia

Province falling short of goal to create 500 new addiction beds, NDP says

The provincial government is nowhere close to fulfilling a 2013 election promise to provide 500 new addiction services spaces by 2017. So far, it has created just 220 treatment spaces, prompting criticism from the NDP opposition.

'They have a long way to go,' says NDP MLA

Gwyn Staddon, 16, struggled with substance abuse for some time, but thought she was invincible to overdose, her grieving mother says. (Veronica Staddon )

The provincial government is nowhere close to fulfilling a 2013 election promise to provide 500 new addiction services spaces by 2017.

So far, it has created just 220  treatment spaces, provincial figures show, prompting criticism from the NDP opposition.

Surrey-Green Timbers MLA Sue Hammell said the province has failed to provide the treatment options it promised.

"Where they have failed is they have not provided the treatment spaces for people when they are ready to get off and to get into recovery and have support to get off the drug," Hammell said.

"This situation has been known for a while," she said. "They knew they needed the spaces and that is why they promised them."

The issue of addictions spaces has been thrust into the spotlight after the recent overdose deaths of Gwyn Staddon and Brandon Jansen.

Jansen, 20, died of a fentanyl overdose last March. Staddon, 16, died in a Port Moody Starbucks last Sunday of a suspected drug overdose.

Brandon's mother, Michelle Jansen, said her son would have had to wait 4 to 6 months to get a treatment space

In a statement, the Ministry of Health expressed its condolences to Staddon's family.

"Our hearts go out to the family and loved ones of this young person," the statement said. "The death of a youth is tragic, especially when it may have been prevented.

Province 'running out of time,' says NDP

"While we cannot speak to this specific case, we can say that improving mental health and substance use services in B.C. is absolutely a priority for this government."

The provincial government also provided a fact sheet with the various services offered to help those with addictions.

The Ministry of Health says it "spends more than $1.42 billion per year in mental and substance use services."

The services include mental health promotion strategies, targeted prevention and inpatient care.

The province has not backed down from its commitment to fund 500 spaces by the end of 2017.

There are plans to open three new inpatient facilities for youths next year, including in North Vancouver and Surrey.

A new mental health facility is also opening at the Vancouver General Hospital to coordinate services.

But Hammell said the province has run out of time to get all the beds needed in place before the end of next year.

"They have a long way to go, they claim they are going to have the spaces in place," said Hammell. "I think that is wishful thinking." 

In July, the government announced a new task force to recommend additional actions to prevent and respond to overdose deaths.

The task force will report back frequently and changes can be made even before the work is entirely done by the group.