EDITORIAL: Fentanyl drags crisis into the light

It’s been a mostly invisible problem in the the Parksville-Qualicum Beach region for years, but fentanyl has dragged the issue of illicit drug use kicking and screaming for attention into the light.

Drugs are not new to the City of Parksville, or the rest of the surrounding region. But never have they been so in-your-face.

Whereas before everyone knew there were some people who lived part of the year near the beach, or who holed up in the bush in makeshift tents, the rest of Parksville’s residents weren’t confronted with piles of needles everywhere.

It really is a whole new world, where parents are having to check playgrounds for discarded drug paraphernalia before allowing their kids to enjoy the equipment, and folks are finding needles in hordes a few feet off the beaches and public trails.

Darkest of all, it’s a world where 13 people in the Parksville-Qualicum Beach area have died of suspected drug overdoses in just the last year and a half.

In Parksville, in particular, the problem has been exacerbated by a recent influx of transients from the Lower Mainland, Alberta and other points. The city and the Oceanside RCMP have been forced to devote resources to addressing that.

But fentanyl is not a local issue. It has turned a persistent problem into a catastrophe that communities across Vancouver Island — and beyond — are struggling to come to grips with. It’s addiction and death on a scale none of us never faced before. The statistics about the percentage of drugs being sold containing fentanyl are staggering. Last year, a study found that at one site, 86 per cent of the street drugs tested contained the dangerous opioid. We would venture to guess those numbers have only increased. Overdoses are not deterring addicts from seeking out their next fix.

So while there really is no perfect place for an overdose prevention site, it’s something the City of Parksville has dared to begin discussing publicly. And time may show that we need it. Statistics have shown it will save lives. Now we just need some real movement on longer-term fixes for this public health crisis.

Addicts need a place to go immediately if they want to get clean, along with treatment for the problems underlying their drug addictions. So far, we haven’t heard much on these fronts. Government needs to step up.

— Parksville Qualicum Beach News