Details are coming out how the opiod crisis in BC is affecting First Nations Communities.
Health officials says preliminary data on overdoses and deaths among status first nations members.
Dr Shannon McDonald, Deputy Chief Medical Health Officer for the First Nations Health Authority says the data so far only covers January 1st of 2015 to November 30th of 2016.
First nations people make up about 3.4 per cent of BC’s population, but their numbers affected by the crisis shows how disproportionate the issue is.
“Fourteen per cent of all recorded overdose events in BC were in first nations people. And first nations people are five times more likely than non-first nations to experience an overdose event.”
Ten per cent of all overdose deaths in BC between January of 2015 and July 2016 were among first nations people.
First nations people are three times more likely than non-first nations to die from overdoses.
Men are two and a half times more likely to die than women.
Dr McDonald says the root cause of the crisis among first nations is colonization.
She says there has been a displacement and loss of connection from culture, family and community.
BC’s new Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, Judy Darcy, says the government understands the source of addictions do niot originate in the substances that people use, but in the trauma that they endured.
She says the government recognizes that racism and inter-generational trauma create barriers to accessing health care for first nations people and is committed to working with the community to eliminate those barriers.
Grand Chief Doug Kelly says it’s not easy to discuss these types of issues, but
” You cannot solve a problem by ignoring it. You cannot solve a problem by denying it. You can’t solve a problem by yelling at it. It begins with a debate. It begins with a discussion. It begins with listening, learning and then together we can act.”
Kelly says alcoholism, youth and adult suicide existed before the opiod crisis.
But all of the issues have similar causes.
“It’s unresolved trauma, unresolved grief. In our way, Sometimes, physical pain is actually a spiritual pain.Sometimes physical pain has a mental cause or an emotional cause.”
He says to confront those challenges we need to make sure to respond with appropriate care.
Chief Kelly says it’s important for the provincial government to to partner with the First Nations Health Authority to work together to transform what he calls the sickness system to a wellness system.
Dr McDonald calls the data just a snapshot of the full picture.
More has to be done to compile data on where overdoses and deaths are occurring among non-status first nations.