Mayor Sullivan Wimps out on Drug Treatment

Finally. Someone calls Vancouver’s mayor out on his apparent indifference to recovery.

Here’s the mayor’s attitude toward addiction recovery:

Now, addicts are like me. [Note: The mayor is quadrapalegic due to a skiing accident when he was 19.] They have a disability. And they will always have this disability. It is a waste of time and money to pretend to them and to ourselves that they will ever change. So what we should do is make them more comfortable! Remove the criminality, give them their drugs and let them choose what they do and want to do next.

Yesterday I posted a link to his comments about responding to street begging:

Because most of the people causing trouble in downtown Vancouver are those with drug addictions, said Sullivan, the backbone of his approach to the problem is innovative approaches to drug addiction.

“We know drug maintenance programs have worked fabulously in other jurisdictions to significantly reduce crime and street disorder,” Sullivan said.

You may ask why I care about Vancouver when we live 3000 miles away? Well, Vancouver is seen as an innovator in responding to addiction. Local government officials and activists regularly point to Vancouver as a model for responding to addiction and it’s manifestations in the community. Our fear all along has been that we’d experience exactly what is happening in Vancouver. In order to win acceptance of the harm reduction programs, lip service is given to treatment and recovery. Once the HR programs are created, momentum for anything else dies. People begin saying that addiction is an unsolvable problem and now that the once highly visible addicts are out of the community’s hair, few people care.

It’s not that we oppose HR programs in principle. We’d support recovery-oriented HR programs or programs that espouse gradualism. The biggest barrier is the context of the program. You can’t have recovery-oriented HR if there are months long waiting lists for treatment and sober housing.

This was the first article in a three part series. The second shares his experience as the director of a treatment program. The third addresses the barriers to creating new treatment programs in B.C.