After another presumed COVID-19 case in B.C., Dana Larsen asks why there's no joint statement on the overdose crisis

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      There is a sixth presumed B.C. case of COVID-19, a.k.a. the novel coronavirus.

      And once again, that's led to a joint statement by Health Minister Adrian Dix and B.C.'s provincial health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry.

      But this time, drug-policy reformer Dana Larsen has asked why they haven't issued any joint statements about the "biggest health emergency" in B.C.'s history—the overdose crisis—rather than just doing this on COVID-19. 

      Larsen also called for decriminalization of illicit drugs and a safe supply to prevent more deaths.

      The latest COVID-19 case involves a woman in her 30s who lives in the Fraser Health Region and who recently returned from Iran.

      "The patient’s close contacts will be identified and contacted by public-health officials," Dix and Henry said. "The patient is in isolation at home."

      Four of the other cases have been confirmed by the National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg.

      "They remain in self-isolation and under care by public-health teams," Dix and Henry said. "The first case has recovered, as indicated by the resolution of symptoms, followed by two successive negative test results 24 hours apart.

      “The risk of this virus spreading within British Columbia remains low at this time. We are closely monitoring the situation in Canada and abroad. We will notify the public if the measures in B.C. change."

      Every time there's a presumed COVID-19 case, Health Minister Adrian Dix issues a statement with Dr. Bonnie Henry. They don't do this after hundreds of overdose deaths.

      No joint statement on overdose deaths

      According to B.C. Coroners Service statistics, there were 3,507 fentanyl-detected overdose deaths from November 2016 to October 2019.

      There have been no deaths in B.C. from COVID-19.

      Last year, Henry wrote a major report, Stopping the Harm: Decriminalization of People Who Use Drugs in BC, calling for an evidence-based plan to save illicit-drug users' lives.

      In it, the provincial health officer recommended that the legislature eliminate criminal penalties for drug possession through an amendment to the B.C. Police Act.

      “There is widespread global recognition that the failed ‘war on drugs’ and the resulting criminalization and stigmatization of people who use drugs has not reduced drug use but instead has increased health harms,” Henry stated in her report.

      Dix is a member of the B.C. NDP cabinet, which has refused to implement this recommendation.

      The B.C. NDP cabinet didn't budge even after Henry's call was endorsed by the Nurses and Nurse Practitioners of B.C. and the Harm Reduction Nurses Association.

      Then last November, B.C. NDP members voted unanimously at a party convention in Victoria in favour of a motion calling on the B.C. government to urge the federal government to change Canada's drug laws to decriminalize personal possession.

      Once again, the NDP cabinet did not go along with this idea.

      In another tweet, Larsen conceded that B.C. is "way better on drug policy than Alberta", even though it refuses to provide a safe supply to those addicted to illicit drugs.

      Larsen has also questioned why the B.C. Liberals have failed to embrace this idea. Their leader, Andrew Wilkinson, is a former doctor.

      Meanwhile, the Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions will not receive any increase in its annual budget over the next three years.

      That, too, has generated some discussion by drug-policy reformers over Twitter: