“Absolutely Devastating”: The recovering user reflects the worst year of BC’s opioid crisis

It’s been years since Kevin Tierney had so many reasons to hope.

The 40-year-old metro Vancouver resident was homeless, in jail, and homeless again when he experienced a debilitating addiction to fentanyl and crystal meth.

For the first time, he has a place to call his own: a small Phoenix Society apartment in Surrey, BC, where he recently completed his drug use treatment.

“For me, this little apartment is everything. It gives me a safe place to lay my head at night and also a safe place to work, ”he told Global News.

“I’m back to school. I have a plan for my future. I’m really looking forward to the new year and my new life. “

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BC posts deadliest month in the province’s history due to illicit drug overdoses

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It has been more than five years since BC declared a public health emergency due to an unprecedented surge in deaths from opioid-related overdoses.

On Thursday, the BC Coroners Service announced 201 alleged drug poisoning deaths for the month of October – the deadliest month ever reported in the province.

BC recorded 1,782 alleged deaths from illegal drug poisoning between January and October, making 2021 the worst year on record.


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1:41BC’s chief medical examiner addresses the deadliest month for drug overdoses in the province’s history


BC’s chief medical examiner addresses the deadliest month for drug overdoses in the province’s history

The numbers are “absolutely devastating” for Tierney, who overdosed six times in his life and needed an ambulance and is “very happy just to be alive” himself.

“When I look around, all I see in my world is chaos and death,” he explained. “I lost most of my friends to the fentanyl crisis.”

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Tierney said he has been “clean” for two months, but the Phoenix Society’s program is unique in that it offers participants a long-term option for subsequent housing. It also means he can stay close to his support network and the people who helped him recover.

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If the British Columbia government is serious about saving lives, Tierney added, it needs to offer more services with a similar model.

“I have completed treatment programs in the past. Some of them were 30 days or 60 days, but then I just return to my community in my active addiction, ”he said.

“As much as I learned from treatment when I returned to my war zone, my chances of success were very slim.”


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2:50A woman’s story about her fight against addiction


A woman’s story of her fight against addiction – November 5, 2021

Keir Macdonald, Phoenix CEO, described the recent surge in opioid-related deaths as “preventable”.

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The province is not acting with sufficient urgency to save lives, he told Global News, with waiting times between four and six weeks to access many province-funded programs.

“We are not doing enough to offer people hope or a path to a better life or a life worth living,” he said. “People can only wait that long, especially when you are not housed.”

Many people who complete drug use programs end up on the streets again while they wait for the next step.

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That goes for people leaving prison too, added Tierney.

“There is not enough support for this transition. Most guys get released with less than $ 500 in their pockets and nowhere and they just end up back on the streets, ”he said.

“Addiction is not the problem. Addiction is the result of a problem. “


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3:35The Vancouver Clinic is paving the way by offering heroin to take away


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Macdonald said Tierney is proof that housing is critical to the success of treatment programs and an essential part of tackling the opioid crisis.

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“We see it every day at the Phoenix Society in stories like Kevin’s and the remarkable changes that can be made when people have access to the support they need, when they need it.”

In April, the British Columbia government invested $ 500 million in support of mental health and addictions. Most recently, the funds in Fraser Health were used for new addiction medicine teams offering expertise to hospital patients.

Last month, the province also became the first in Canada to formally request the federal government for an exemption from criminal penalties for those who possess small amounts of illicit drugs for personal use.

– With files from Richard Zussman

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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