People in Ladysmith are dying due to the opioid crisis.
Maybe a public gathering Tueday evening at Ladysmith Secondary School is a step closer to saving them.
The Ladysmith Resource Centre Association, (LRCA) hosted a presentation on the crisis and how it’s affecting the community, where Cowichan Valley filmmaker Nick Versteeg presented his film A Just Society, a documentary on the opioid crisis facing communities in Vancouver Island.
The screening was hosted in conjunction with Christy Wood, executive director of the LRCA, and Dr. Shannon Waters, medical health officer for the Cowichan district in an attempt to start a community conversation.
“[The film] is not made for television, it’s made for a presentation,” Versteeg said. “The whole goal is to get a conversation going because we cannot let this happen over and over again.”
Versteeg’s film follows several individuals through their struggles with addiction, and shows multiple treatment centres on Vancouver Island, including Cedars treatment centre in Cobble Hill, Our Place in Victoria, and Woodwynn Farm in Saanich. The film also details struggles of homelessness and opioid addiction in the Cowichan Valley.
After the screening, Waters spoke about statistics gathered by the Vancouver Island Health Authority for the Cowichan Valley Regional District. The statistics were separated in to three regions: Cowichan Valley South, Cowichan Valley West, and Cowichan Valley North, which contains Ladysmith. There are about 90,000 people living in the Cowichan Valley, 20,819 of which live in Cowichan Valley North.
Ladysmith experienced four opioid related overdose deaths in 2016, four in 2017, and three in 2018. All the deaths in 2018 were fentanyl related, and more than 60 percent occurred in a private residence. The deaths were mainly affecting men aged 50-54.
“We are losing people in Ladysmith to this crisis,” Waters said. “Reaching out or connecting with those individuals may be different than people who are a decade or two younger. What we really need to look at is the location of these deaths… and how do we reach those people who are using in a private residence.”
The largest number of overdose deaths occurred in the Cowichan Valley South region. To combat this, a safe injection site was opened in Duncan in September 2017. Since then, the site has been visited 29,000 times.
Waters said the site sees over 390 new clients a month, and 209 overdoses have been reversed. No deaths have occurred at the site. While the site has been successful, opioid users in Ladysmith have difficulty accessing the service due to its distance from the community. This leaves users with few options for safe consumption.
About 25 people attended the presentation. Most appeared engaged throughout and spoke at length with organizers afterward.
Versteeg and Waters will be presenting again at the United Church in Chemainus on Wednesday, May 15, from 7 to 9 pm. They encourage everyone in the community to come to the event, especially youths.