The Comox Valley Community Health Network is developing a Community Substance Use Strategy. File photo

The Comox Valley Community Health Network is developing a Community Substance Use Strategy. File photo

Comox Valley Substance Use Strategy focus wider than toxic drug crisis

Courtenay council agreed to continue supporting the Comox Valley Community Health Network, which provided a report on the first phase of a regional Substance Use Strategy at the Oct. 18 meeting.

Phase One of the strategy focused on learning and documenting the state of substance use locally, and listening to community members and stakeholders.

Phase Two will focus on mapping, engaging with government, and dialoguing to inform findings and next steps. Cultural mapping is community-engaged research methodology.

READ: Story Walks illustrated extent of toxic drug crisis in Comox Valley and other communities

“The focus is wider than the toxic drug crisis,” report consultant Evan Jolicoeur said in a presentation. “Most shockingly, it’s actually the legalized substances that have the largest strain economically, rationally, socially and on our hospital system, both in terms of deaths and stress on the hospital system.”

Mapping exercises have shown a discrepancy between what’s been heard on the ground and what’s been seen by service providers — which shows a need to understand redundancies and service gaps.

Jolicoeur said the community needs to move from good intentions to collective action, which is the third phase of the strategy.

Considering Island Health is the main provider of substance use treatment and programming, Coun. Doug Hillian asked if the authority has provided a rationale that a strategy such as this can be developed “with a few paltry thousand dollars from the city,” compared to a significant injection of staff and resources from them.

“That’s one of the main conversations we want to get into in Phase Two,” CVCHN facilitator Lindsay McGinn said. “There’s some relationships that need to be mended and addressed in our community, and some of those are with Island Health.”

In conversations with Housing Minister David Eby, Hillian said he and other local officials have expressed their inability to cope with the toxic drug crisis on the streets due to a lack of servicing and housing. He noted that government has said it intends to deliver some form of complex care strategy in the next year to try and address some of these challenges faced by municipalities in B.C.

Council approved funds up to $30,000 be included in the 2022 operating budget, and $15,000 annually in the long-term financial plan to support Phase 2 and subsequent phases of the Substance Use Strategy.

Coun. Wendy Morin suggested discussion at budget time to increase the funding level, and to encourage other local governments to consider the same.

“I think we’re seeing this is a huge issue in our community and it’s beyond just what we see on the streets,” she said.

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