Three months ago, I read the following headline in The Guardian, which made my heart sing with joy.
My family and many others have waited years for this to happen. And, they weren’t just regular years either. They were filled with stress, worry, devastation, disappointment, shock, tears, and sadness. After reading the article, I felt that change was finally going to happen here on PEI. It felt good to hear something positive on this subject. It felt good to know the government was paying attention. It felt good to know that people were going to be helped to break free from the grips of addiction. FINALLY!
In the three months since that article appeared, it was reported that:
1. PEI’s needle exchange use is up 60%. While it is positive that IV users have a place to get clean needles and return used ones in order to prevent the spread of infections and diseases, this significant increase is indicative of the overall increase in IV drug use, especially among our younger demographic (see #2).
2. Rates of HepatitisC on PEI have doubled over the last decade, which is also tied into the increase in IV drug use. As if that wasn’t bad enough, of the 50 new cases per year, at least 50% of the individuals are between 20 to 30 years of age (compare that to only 10% in that age group 15 years ago). Important note: 5 of the 50 cases were not related to IV drug use.
3. Our crime rate is up for the second year in a row. This includes only police reported crime. Many more crimes go unreported. We had the highest crime rate per capita for provinces east of Manitoba. It is estimated 80% or more of the inmates in Sleepy Hollow are there because of their drug addiction. One only has to read the newspaper to see addiction mentioned as a mitigating factor in most cases before the court. For this reason, we can easily conclude that addiction is behind the increase in crime here on our gentle Island.
With all this bad news related to addiction, you would expect our government to be on top of it. Yet, there has been nothing but silence since the article in May that promised aggressive action. Why? Also, why has the review on Mental Health and Addictions not been released yet?
According to the article mentioned earlier in this post, “Currie said government will be ‘moving fairly aggressively’ to find longer-term solutions to the complex problems associated with youth addictions.” I guess that Currie’s idea of “aggressively” is different from mine. When lives are on the line, aggressively should mean right now – not when summer is over (or even later)!
To be fair, I don’t put this problem squarely on the shoulders of Health Minister, Doug Currie. He is one man with a huge portfolio to take care of. The Departments of Health, Education, and Justice all played a role in this problem reaching epidemic levels, and they all need to play a role in fixing it. We cannot forget about the Premier either! As the head of this province, Premier Ghiz is ultimately responsible for what happens here. Premier Ghiz, we cannot afford to wait any longer on this issue.
It is positive that the government is holding committee hearings in the fall but we need to take action now. You already know the extent of the problem. The evidence is all around you.
As a parent, citizen, and compassionate human being, I respectfully ask our government to take meaningful action on the issue of addiction before it is too late to turn it around.