Comment: Declare an emergency over opioid crisis

Our family lost a loved son and brother at the age of 26 to fentanyl poisoning on April 24, 2017.

Ryan was one of 124 people last April in British Columbia to lose their lives and one of 1,400 British Columbians in 2017 who died of fentanyl poisoning. Ryan was not sick — he was a healthy young man who was working as an electrician and had finished eight months of recovery.

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It is now 17 months later, and we are on pace for another 1,400 British Columbians to lose their lives to the same preventable cause in 2018. More than four people every day in B.C. are continuing to die from fentanyl poisoning. This crisis is affecting everyone, as it’s non-discriminatory in who is dying, affecting everyone from businesspeople, health-care providers, construction workers and teenagers to seniors.

Premier John Horgan needs to declare this fentanyl crisis a provincial state of emergency and call on the other provincial premiers to do the same. In July 2017, the provincial government declared a provincial state of emergency to combat wildfires. A provincial emergency was declared again in 2018 due to wildfires.

Not a single life was lost to wildfires in either year, yet a contaminated source will kill 3,000 British Columbians and more than 8,000 Canadians in 2017 and 2018. We understand because of the size and number of fires that it was necessary to declare the provincial emergency. We don’t understand how so many healthy people across our province have died and continue to die every day and it is not a provincial state of emergency.

Our premiers need to call upon our prime minister and his Liberal government to declare this crisis a national public-health emergency, so real changes can be made to save lives now. Canada’s chief public-health officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, stated that: “Tragically, in 2016, there were more deaths from opioid-related deaths than from the HIV epidemic in 1995. This is a major public-health crisis in Canada.”

Our governments are responsible for the safety of their citizens, and they have the responsibility to do all they can to stop preventable deaths. Tragically, optics and the fear of losing votes are preventing this.

John and Jennifer Hedican are Ryan’s parents. Megan and Kyle are his sister and brother. They live in Courtenay.

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