Collaborating to Solve the Overdose Crisis

Leadership is about bringing people in and working together to find solutions to common concerns. Sonia believes that collaboration with others who care deeply about their community helps to yield more effective results, as every person brings another lens to the discussion. The Cowichan Leadership Group (CLG) is an example of how effective collaboration can be in creating and supporting healthy communities.

The CLG was formed in June 2019 as a collaborative, intergovernmental group of representatives from all levels of government. Since it was created, it has addressed issues such as homelessness, crime, and substance use.

For over a year, Sonia has been working with the CLG on a comprehensive plan to support the citizens of Cowichan Valley through the overdose crisis. Sonia knows that actually delivering for people means listening to them, understanding the complexity of their concerns and doing the hard work to build different systems that will make a difference they can really feel.

In October 2019, the CLG invited the Minister of Mental Health & Addictions, Judy Darcy, to visit the Cowichan Valley, where service providers outlined their concerns for the safety and well-being of Cowichan residents and those living on the street. Those community advocates presented a proposal to Minister Darcy to fund measures such as temporary treatment facilities and a safe drug supply pilot in Cowichan, but their proposal was denied.

In February 2020, Sonia took action in the legislature, asking Minister Darcy what actions she and her government would take to respond to the overdose crisis, and pushing for real action.

The BC Government did respond in April 2020, with the announcement of a new Wellness and Recovery Centre to be constructed in the Cowichan Valley. The new centre is set to open in Fall 2020 and will offer new services, including nursing, support for people in their treatment and recovery, and improved access to treatment for opioid use disorder.

However, the double impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has made the overdose crisis worse, and more people in Cowichan Valley are dying of overdoses. The CLG wrote to the Federal Minister of Health, Patty Hajdu, on July 2, 2020 to request more funding be provided to British Columbia. Their call was answered – two weeks later, Minister Hajdu announced $2 million in funding for a safe supply project. Dr. Richard Stanwick, Island Health’s chief medical health officer reported that in addition to receiving hydromorphone the participants “will get mental-health support, primary-care support, peer support, and even their own personal program.”

We need access to a safe drug supply, temporary treatment facilities, and transitional housing for people coming out of treatment, and we need it urgently. We are in crisis, and we need a crisis response. Sonia is advocating that government implement the recommendations of Dr. Bonnie Henry, the Provincial Health Officer for British Columbia, to decriminalize street drugs for personal use and provide access to safe supply, a recommendation also made recently by the Canadian Association of Police Chiefs.

Sonia knows how to move issues forward by working collaboratively with others, and how to appeal more broadly to British Columbians by connecting issues to their everyday lives. She has what it takes to win elections and implement transformative policies that will make our province more resilient, equitable, and sustainable.

As leader of the BC Greens, Sonia will continue to use her solutions-focused, collaborative leadership style to get things done for people in Cowichan Valley and across the whole province. She will bring the same hard work ethic she brings to fighting for her constituents to fight for voters across British Columbia.