Thanks to Tyee health writer Michelle Gamage for reporting on the lessons learned during my unofficial visit to Portugal where I met with policy makers and frontline workers to discuss the country’s harm reduction model. As Michelle says, I was accompanied by Liberal MP Brendan Hanley, former chief medical officer of health for Yukon who asked to join me. As I told her ““I can’t count on two hands the number of people I know who have died, kids that I’ve watched grow up, adults that I know, professionals that fell through the cracks and people that are recreational drug users.” She reports that Port Alberni has been particularly hard hit by the toxic drug crisis.
Over the last year Port Alberni has had over 1,000 deaths per million people, compared to all of B.C. which has had 438 deaths per million, while Portugal has had six deaths per million. I was able to witness first hand the patient-centred care model that is at the centre of its national strategy. Sadly, our country does not have a strategy which was the purpose of my private members bill for health-based approach to substance use in 2021. It was supported by all NDP, Bloc and Green MP's along with 14 Liberals including Dr. Hanley. The truth of the matter is that while this minority Liberal government spent $512.6 billion on pandemic-related spending it has only allocated $800 million since 2017 to address the toxic drug crisis. Please share Michelle’s story with friends who are concerned about this public health emergency and let them know that I will not let up until the government responds.