Portugal Model for Fighting Drug Deaths Appeals To BC

Vancouver Province
> (2017-09-08)
>
> News
> Portugal model for fighting drug deaths appeals to B.C
Dr. João Goulão, who helped create
> Portugal’s policy for combating drug addictions and overdoses, was at the
> Recovery Capital Conference of Canada in New Westminster Thursday.;
> B.C.’s first minister of mental health and addictions says she will take
> an “all-ministry” approach to the overdose crisis, influenced in part by
> Portugal’s renowned policy for drug use and addiction.
>
>
> Minister Judy Darcy met with Dr.
>
>
> João Goulão, Portugal’s national drug coordinator, at this week’s Recovery
> Capital Conference of Canada in New Westminster.
>
>
> In 1998, Goulão was part of a committee that developed policy to deal with
> a deadly drug crisis in his country, during which one per cent of the
> population was addicted.
>
>
> Through measures such as decriminalization, treatment on demand and the
> expansion of treatment facilities, Portugal’s overdose-death rate
> plummeted while public perception of addiction shifted from viewing it as
> a criminal issue to one of health.
>
>
> By 2015, Portugal had an average of three overdose deaths per one million
> people, according to the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug
> Addiction.
>
>
> In B.C. this year, amid a fentanyl-related public health emergency, there
> have been 313 deaths per one million people, up from 206 last year.
>
>
> After her meeting with Goulão, Darcy said she saw “a pathway to hope”
> through Portugal’s subsidized employment and housing programs for people
> in recovery, and its focus on counselling, treatment and education.
>
>
> “I think we have so much to learn from them,” Darcy said.
>
>
> In Portugal, addiction is treated as a medical issue and a chronic
> disease. It offers drug users an appointment with a doctor as soon as they
> seek help and then creates a “tailor-made” treatment and recovery plan.
> Failure to comply can lead to penalties such as fines or community
> service.
>
>
> B.C.’s new government is promising to implement its own “askonce,
> get-help-fast” approach to treatment and recovery.
>
>
> “There are people out there doing amazing work, but it isn’t a system,
> Darcy said. “It’s not co-ordinated, it’s not seamless and we have all of
> these silos.”
>
>
> Following a tour Wednesday of Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, Goulão said
> he was shocked by what he saw.
>
>
> “It reminds me of the worst times in Portugal during the heroin epidemic
> in the ’90s,” he said.
>
>
> Goulão was surprised by the neighbourhood’s uncoordinated harm reduction,
> treatment and recovery systems.
>
>
> While he doesn’t know whether Portugal’s system is directly adaptable to
> B.C., he believes political will could bring agencies together for a
> system that functions better.
>
>
> “I saw so many responses – every corner,” he said. “What I kept from the
> visit that I made is that there (is) probably a lack of communication and
> articulation of the work of those different institutions.”
>
>
> Darcy said she would build a coordinated, easy-to-navigate system that
> provides affordable programs as well as follow-ups after treatment.
>
>
> She said her short-term goal is to bring all agencies and ministries video
> See a video with this story at theprovince.com responsible together to
> address the overdose crisis.
>
>
> “Our approach is really an all-government approach. We have to be bold. We
> have no choice.”
>
>
> Goulão said his impression of Darcy was she had a good plan in place.
>
>
> “Clearly, I was very impressed with her speech (at the conference),” he
> said. “I could subscribe (to) it entirely, and I hope that she has the
> political and social conditions to go on with what she proposed.”
>
>
> Conference spokesman Marshall Smith said it was important to invite Goulão
> so the recovery community could better understand the Portuguese model,
> including misconceptions about decriminalization.
>
>
> Smith said after listening to a broad array of delegates from all areas of
> B.C.’s additions-treatment community, he believed B.C. may be ready to
> “take a page out of” Portugal’s policy.
>
>
> “I think we’re starting to see the type of will that is needed to explore
> this, at least on some smaller, pilot basis,” Smith said.
>
>
> “That could be a very exciting breakthrough.”
>
>
neagland@postmedia.com twitter.com/nickeagland
>