Real Emergencies

Remember that fuss about the report that was released at the end of April by Dr Bonnie Henry, BC’s Provincial Health Officer: “Stopping the Harm: decriminalizing people who use drugs”? Apparently not really.

As I tried to say on the radio it’s not about decriminalizing substances-  it’s about decriminalizing people. Dr Henry got it exactly.

courtesy CBC On the Coast, April 24 2019

That means ending the ongoing exclusion of people who use drugs – but mostly low-income, racialized, mentally divergent people who use drugs – from the legal and civil norms conventional in mainstream society. It’s not  about whether or not you’re charged with possession or trafficking or whatever.

It’s about the process of becoming criminal and how people who use drugs think of themselves as being outside of the the law : it punishes us, it does not protect us. But this report asserts that the law belongs to us too because we are also citizens and that’s the point of decriminalizing people.

we have to stop the harm, because reducing all this is clearly not good enough

ODAX18 (BCCDC)

now this is a public health intervention

What the report says is that policing and ongoing criminalization is preventing people from accessing health services, from accessing all kinds of Public Services, keeping us in poverty, making people vulnerable to overdose and endangering lives. Criminalization is undermining all of the health related activities that have been authorized through the initial intervention back in December 2016.

And it’s not just another report by experts that goes into the air and things may be happening or maybe not. The report and its author, the Provincial Health Officer is authorized and empowered through the Public health act and this report has a particular force because of this state of emergency. It is not just another report.

As the Provincial Health Officer of BC,
I recommend that the Province of BC
urgently move to decriminalize people who possess controlled substances for personal use. This is a fundamental underpinning and necessary next step for the continued provincial response to the overdose crisis in BC.

“Stopping the Harm” is addressed to the government of British Columbia, from a senior officer appointed by government to the people’s elected representatives. This is a high-level intervention, not to an individual minister but to the executive of the government of the province, to the premier and the cabinet, and four ministers.

Consider the precedent. let’s go back and think about the last time we were at day 1114 of a public health emergency oh wait.

This is how to deal with an emergency. This is the most extreme intervention that provincial law allows. It has never been done before.

We need the government to consider these recommendations. It will be painful. This is a terrible situation to face directly. We can help them by being honest and brave, but they must do the same. We gotta talk, and this recommendation must be considered by the people elected to do so.

Silence is death. The legislature, the cabinet table – these are the places where this discussion must happen now. Let’s all take it seriously — as seriously as we possibly can, and in the terms suggested by this report (among others): as a political issue. 

prohibition and death

vancouver and forgetting

alcohol was prohibited in Vancouver during the 1918 pandemic. a lot of people died during prohibition, at the end of the war, in that pandemic

A LOT 

WAVE AFTER WAVE (Epidemic and Public Health : Influenza in Vancouver, 1918-1919 by Margaret W. Andrews)

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health services were already short staffed because many doctors and nurses had gone overseas, to serve in the war.

they couldn’t figure out how people were getting sick − it wasn’t the poor, the old, the weak − they couldn’t figure out how those who became infected were infected. they couldn’t make connections

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the majority of deaths were people between 20-39.

it was prohibition and if you wanted to drink, this was the legal route. you needed a prescription. it was rationed, and mild.

"there were long queues for prescription spirits"

it was pandemic safe supply.

otherwise you had no idea what you were drinking but people went to underground bars anyway. i know this; i was in the basement of old gachet on cordova, where there’s a tunnel to the old bar − people could enter it from down the block & around the corner. to not use alone.

to examine documents now, to be historical, is to wonder at how infrequently the pandemic is mentioned. once it was here.

"there was popular reluctance to admit that normal life was being disrupted"

it was understood very differently in in different places. and death rates tell only only a part of the tale. i wonder what it was by neighbourhood

Image
table from Margaret W. Andrews, Epidemic and Public Health, BC Studies 1977

if you can’t get social or physical distance, there’s always the historical option. step back, and look at us.

26.9 in 2020 for the whole province
but overdoses

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in the aftertimes people tried to forget it happened as quickly as possible and focused on recovering from the war and even called it Great and repealed prohibition and once again believed that everything was fine and nothing would ever change and the pandemic only lasted three years

and almost 800 people had died in the city, which had a population of 100 000

were they supposed to pretend that never happened? to forget that they ran out of flowers for funerals? they sure tried.

will we? did our deaths or lives ever happen?

did you hear about the pandemic

so leading off at 930, there’s the Mayor’s Overdose Task Force Update
Dr. Patricia Daly, Chief Medical Health Officer, Vancouver Coastal Health, and staff from Arts, Culture and Community Services, to present an update on the Mayor’s Overdose Taskforce.

i expect a checklist of work completed up until mid-march, remember? back in the beforetimes? all of it has completely changed because everything has completely changed. i am continuing, for example, to post any grant opportunities. you haven’t, you have not! you yell.

i have posted them. there just are none. theyre gone.

when people complain that COVID is winning the public health disaster pageant, as if the pandemic is a PERSONAL ATTACK and not a reminder that no one is coming to save us, and that we must do this ourselves. really, get off your ass, it’s time.

alberta has stopped reporting monthly overdose deaths.

council has COVID council and while there have been some questions, there have been no solutions proposed specific to this. except from the cops, whose idea is MORE COPS. ive been trying to get council’s attention, which is why i was talking about outdoor supervised sites and opening streets to people on the news last week, and also why im really irritable. also 170 people in overdosed and died last month in the province. not just here. there are other places. and a lot of terrible things are happening. (see above, re: PANDEMIC)

i have had enough symbolic and heartwarming useless gestures. i don’t want compassion. i want justice ffs. I want equitable resources for a disaster of this magnitude. that’s all.

the other day, the province announced a new phone line like this:

“BC launches 24/7 helpline to help experts help people with addictions”

thats MORE MONEY TO THE BCCSU. (i hear on the street that the BCCSU has also won the national competition for MOST OPPORTUNISTIC, single crisis, multi-year. there’s a plaque)

how about 24/7 OPS access and can we have an inhalation site while some people can still breathe. I’ve been asking for two years. More bathrooms = less shit, why are we still talking about this, did you hear about the pandemic?

i am trying to give them ideas.

also i am scheduled to talk on cknw at 840. you can watch council at 930 and its very strange because its all online. good day to get on twitter too – am @kwardvancouver

unnatural disaster

It is not an opioid crisis! The changes we seek are not about a class of drug. This about prohibition & racist drug policy that justifies its existence by punishing people already suffering under the conditions it has created; its a weapon of the structures that must be unmade.

In fact, saying people died from “opioid-related overdose” has profoundly negative effects on people who are prescribed these medications, pain patients. And it’s another way that the words we all use obstruct access to safe supply.

In any public forum, the comparison with COVID-19 is going to come up. It’s not about the number of deaths: it’s not a competition. Let’s step back and have another look, because these are really different, and here’s how. And i think this is the point that we need to get insistent about.

Contagious viruses like COVID-19 that become epidemics, which in turn become pandemics, are inevitable — they happen again and again throughout human history. They are natural disasters — terrible but natural. What illicit drug users have experienced these last years is an unnatural disaster in every way. It is the result of choices: choices that have been made by governments. And different choices could be made every day.

It is not about opioids. Definitely not anymore. Really never was. Calling it such distorts our goals. I’ve been correcting anyone from the media I speak to, anyone in government, and anyone in health care or drug policy who still speaks to me. You may think I’m going too far, but it shocks people when i call it a Prohibition Massacre. And that’s what I want to do: shock people out of complacency, and stop them from saying ¯_(ツ)_/¯ what can we do? ¯_(ツ)_/¯

Try to shock people, however you can.

And stop saying the same thing again and again. Because it didnt work.

Real Emergencies

Remember that fuss about the report that was released at the end of April 2019 by Dr Bonnie Henry, BC’s Provincial Health Officer: “Stopping the Harm: decriminalizing people who use drugs”? Apparently not really.

As I tried to say on the radio it’s not about decriminalizing substances-  it’s about decriminalizing people. Dr Henry got it exactly.

courtesy CBC On the Coast, April 24 2019

That means ending the ongoing exclusion of people who use drugs – but mostly low-income, racialized, mentally divergent people who use drugs – from the legal and civil norms conventional in mainstream society. It’s not  about whether or not you’re charged with possession or trafficking or whatever.

It’s about the process of becoming criminal and how people who use drugs think of themselves as being outside of the the law : it punishes us, it does not protect us. But this report asserts that the law belongs to us too because we are also citizens and that’s the point of decriminalizing people.

we have to stop the harm, because reducing all this is clearly not good enough

ODAX18 (BCCDC)

now this is a public health intervention

What the report says is that policing and ongoing criminalization is preventing people from accessing health services, from accessing all kinds of Public Services, keeping us in poverty, making people vulnerable to overdose and endangering lives. Criminalization is undermining all of the health related activities that have been authorized through the initial intervention back in December 2016.

And it’s not just another report by experts that goes into the air and things may be happening or maybe not. The report and its author, the Provincial Health Officer is authorized and empowered through the Public health act and this report has a particular force because of this state of emergency. It is not just another report.

As the Provincial Health Officer of BC,
I recommend that the Province of BC
urgently move to decriminalize people who possess controlled substances for personal use. This is a fundamental underpinning and necessary next step for the continued provincial response to the overdose crisis in BC.

“Stopping the Harm” is addressed to the government of British Columbia, from a senior officer appointed by government to the people’s elected representatives. This is a high-level intervention, not to an individual minister but to the executive of the government of the province, to the premier and the cabinet, and four ministers.

Consider the precedent. let’s go back and think about the last time we were at day 1114 of a public health emergency oh wait.

This is how to deal with an emergency. This is the most extreme intervention that provincial law allows. It has never been done before.

We need the government to consider these recommendations. It will be painful. This is a terrible situation to face directly. We can help them by being honest and brave, but they must do the same. We gotta talk, and this recommendation must be considered by the people elected to do so.

Silence is death. The legislature, the cabinet table – these are the places where this discussion must happen now. Let’s all take it seriously — as seriously as we possibly can, and in the terms suggested by this report (among others): as a political issue. 

very local media at the end of the drug wars

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