LOADING...

Category "BC"

5Dec

Daphne Bramham: ‘Terrible, terrible tragedy’ at Surrey recovery home should have been preventable

by admin

Late last month, a man in his 30s with a long history of addiction doused himself with gasoline and set himself on fire in the garage of a Surrey recovery house.

Two other residents went to hospital and were treated for smoke inhalation as a result of the two-alarm fire.

The B.C. Coroners Service is investigating. So is the Surrey fire department.

Self-immolation is tragedy enough. But what makes it worse is that the man’s death is directly attributable to years of appalling neglect. For two decades, B.C. failed to regulate residential addiction treatment facilities or ensure that they met even the most basic standards.

The man, who has not been officially identified, died in a government-registered treatment home where he was supposed to be monitored, supervised and helped to attain long-term recovery.

What intensifies the tragedy is that his was the third death in a year in a house run by Step by Step Recovery Society. One of the society’s five directors, Debbie Johnson, owns the house at 138A Street that was badly damaged in the fire.

Between November 2018 and March 2019, there were 65 separate breaches of the Assisted Living Registry’s regulations at the five Surrey houses that the society was operating.

Those infractions — the most recent of which were investigated in March — range from inadequate food to unqualified staff to unsafe facilities to failure to ensure residents are not a danger to themselves or others.

At the house on 138A Street where the most recent death occurred, there were 11 substantiated complaints. Only one was dealt with, according to the most recent report posted on the Assisted Living Registry’s website.

The pest control people did get rid of the mice.

But, according to the report, no action had been taken to address verified complaints about safety, about untrained, unqualified staff, and about the lack of any psychosocial supports aimed at helping people attain long-term recovery.

The society voluntarily closed two of its houses earlier this year.

But of the three still on the registry, all have substantiated complaints that haven’t been dealt with. In March, nothing had been done at the houses on 78A Avenue and 97A Avenue that were deemed unsafe for the needs of residents. Verified complaints posted in February about safety and the quality and training of staff remained outstanding.

The question that screams for an answer is: Why wasn’t Step by Step shut down earlier?

The legislation didn’t allow it. The Assisted Living Registry had no power to take immediate action to suspend or attach conditions to a registration.

Instead, all that the registry staff could do was try to work with the operator to get them to conform.

There are dozens of other niggling questions. If this were a well-staffed facility, someone might have realized that the man was struggling before he went to the garage. If it were a well-run, supportive house, it’s unlikely he would have had access to gasoline.

With better rules and oversight, those other two deaths at Step by Step might not have occurred either, and maybe other deaths could have been avoided over the past two decades.

Two decades. That’s how long B.C. went without any regulation of residential treatment centres.

That finally changed on Dec. 1 — 21 years after a previous NDP government brought in regulations only to have them scrapped in 2001 by the B.C. Liberal government that described them as too onerous.

The Liberals did promise new and improved rules in 2016 after a Surrey mom was killed outside a hockey arena by a resident of one of the unregulated facilities. But those rules were never enacted.

In 2017, a coroners’ jury recommended regulations following a 20-year-old man’s overdose death in a Powell River treatment centre. Those regulations were finally released in August 2019 and operators — including Step by Step — were given three months to get ready for the changes.

In the last four days, the registrar has cancelled all five of Step by Step’s registrations. A letter has gone to the operator. And, according to the emailed response from an addictions ministry spokesperson, the operator is “expected to begin an orderly transition of current residents to other registered supportive recovery homes.”

The email also said that Surrey’s bylaw department will work with the operator to place the remaining residents to ensure that no one is left homeless as a result of the closures.

It’s a glimmer of good news. But it all happened four days too late for the unnamed man, for 21-year-old Zachary Plett, whose family will grimly mark the first anniversary of his death at Step by Step last Dec. 15. And it comes nearly 13 months after Step by Step staff took two full days to discover the body of a 35-year-old who overdosed in the house on Christmas Eve.

“Why they had to wait to get these regulations in place is beyond me,” Zachary’s mother Maggie Plett said Thursday. “They should have been done sooner.

“It’s just a terrible, terrible tragedy.”

dbramham@postmedia.com

Twitter: @bramham_daphne


Recovery house regulations timeline:

1998: The NDP government brings in the first regulations under the Community Care Facilities Act.

2001: The B.C. Liberal government scrapped those regulations as part of its deregulation drive, declaring the requirements too onerous.

2014: A Surrey mother is murdered outside a hockey arena by a man living at one of the unregistered houses. At the time, Surrey alone had as many as 250 flophouses purporting to offer supportive housing for recovering addicts.

2016: In the spring’s Throne Speech, B.C. Liberals promise regulations, enforcement and a public registry.

In December, Surrey council voted to require all recovery houses to have business licenses, capping the number at 55 and requiring all of them to be listed on the B.C. government’s Assisted Living Registry.

The amendments to the Community Care and Assisted Living Act were never enacted or enforced.

2018: The B.C. coroners’ review of an overdose death in a Sechelt recovery house recommended that by September 2019 there needed to be better regulations for public and private residential addiction treatment facilities, as well as heightened enforcement.

The government agreed and set up a committee to develop standards to “help ensure quality and consistency and enhance understanding of the services across the province.”

April 2019: The deadline set by the coroner for a progress report came and went, but in a letter from the Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions in May, it promised to have a final report ready for September.

August 2019: Addictions Minister Judy Darcy announces that the 2016 regulations will finally be enacted along with some additional requirements on Dec. 1. To prepare for the changes, the government offered $4,000 in grants to operators licensed by the health authorities or registered by the ALR to offset staff training costs as well as an increase in per-diem rates for residents after more than a decade of having been stuck at $35.90.

2Dec

Thousands of ride-hailing drivers ready to hit the roads in B.C.

by admin


Austin Zhang is CEO of Gokabu, which runs the Chinese language ride-hailing platform Kabu.


Francis Georgian / PNG

Thousands of ride-hailing drivers are set to hit the streets of Metro Vancouver when companies are permitted to begin operating in the next few weeks.

No fewer than 19 ride-hailing platforms are being vetted by the Passenger Transportation Board, some with hundreds of drivers already qualified to work.

The Chinese-language Kabu Ride app was disabled in September to avoid operating illegally after legislation passed enabling legal ride-hailing.

But Richmond-based Gokabu Group had been operating Kabu Ride in the “grey space” for more than three years with hundreds of drivers pulling in more than $10 million a year combined, said company spokesman Martin van den Hemel.

They began encouraging drivers to get their Class 4 drivers licence months ago and secured affordable training with local driving schools to ensure they would have a small army of drivers ready to work under new provincial rules.

Kabu Ride has “hundreds of qualified drivers” who have been through Kabu training, obtained a commercial driver’s licence and secured all the documentation required by the transportation board, said CEO Auston Zhang. “We’ve got many more taking their knowledge test to obtain a Class 4 learner’s licence.”

The vast majority of Kabu Ride drivers are men, but the company is encouraging female applicants.

“We have stay-at-home moms who work for two or three hours a day while their kids are in school,” said Hemel. “We also have drivers who work 50 hours a week and make north of $65,000 a year.”

Lyft is operating two driver hubs in Metro Vancouver — with a third on the way — to recruit and educate potential drivers about the documentation needed before they can participate in ride-hailing.

To drive for a ride-hailing service, you must possess a Class 1, 2 or 4 drivers licence, produce a commercial driving record, obtain a criminal record check and your vehicle must pass a commercial vehicle inspection.

More than 600 people have attended Lyft information sessions in Vancouver, Surrey and Langley, the company said.

Lyft driver Met Yi Su likes the flexibility that gig driving offers, to work around his main job.

“I’m a project manager for a mining organization, which has me working in the field around six months of the year,” he said. “What attracts me to driving with Lyft is the option to do it anytime I want. My wife stays home with the kids, and I can do ridesharing as needed.”

Uber is encouraging potential drivers to use its online guide to get through the qualification process and “be ready to drive in the next few weeks.”

The ride-hailing giant has started distributing Uber decals to its qualified “driver partners” to display once the transportation board approves its transportation network service licence.

Edmonton’s TappCar also has plans to serve Metro Vancouver along with smaller cities in B.C.

It is difficult to know exactly how many drivers will be in the field because some are likely to be active on more than one platform, but other Canadian cities are recording tens of thousands of trips a day.

Based on data from Calgary, the City of Vancouver conservatively estimates 500 to 1,000 ride-hailing vehicles will operate in the “metro core,” compared with about 800 licensed taxis, according to a response to a freedom of information request.

On average, drivers in Calgary worked 10 hours a week and made 2.5 trips an hour. But that’s only part of the picture.

Ride-hailing firms reported more than four million trips in Calgary last year, according to a presentation to the International Association of Transportation regulators.

That’s almost 11,000 trips a day serving a population about half of Metro Vancouver’s 2.5 million residents. Mississauga ride-hailing drivers logged 10 million trips in 2018 — 27,300 trips a day — with a population of less than one million.

Most of that is new business. Ride-hailing trips appeared to have a relatively modest effect on the volume of taxi trips in those markets.

Kabu Ride is a platform with uniquely local roots and an impressive growth record.

Zhang and Gokabu president Billy Xiong had originally conceived their platform as a social media app for foreign students, but quickly changed their business model when they noticed that users were organizing rides around the city.

The company has 60 full time employees and about 25 part time staff. The company also offers subsidized health and disability benefits, through The Cooperators, to “driver partners” who work enough to qualify.

While their ride-hailing service is suspended, some drivers are still active on the food delivery platform, Kabu Eats.

rshore@postmedia.com

23Aug

Daphne Bramham: B.C. addictions minister targets province’s ‘wild, wild West’ recovery houses

by admin

B.C. Addictions Minister Judy Darcy has no illusions about the current state of British Columbia’s recovery houses and the risk that the bad ones pose to anyone seeking safe, quality care.

Nor is she alone when she calls it “the wild, wild West.”

Anyone able to build a website and rent a house can operate a so-called recovery house. Like a game of whack-a-mole, even when inspectors try to shut down the worst ones, they spring up somewhere else.

That said, the regulations they’re supposed to enforce are so vaguely worded that it’s easier for bylaw inspectors to shut places down for garbage infractions than for failure to provide the most basic of services like food and a clean bed to people desperate for help.

Even the most deplorable ones have never been taken to court by the province, let alone fined or convicted which makes the penalties of up to $10,000 moot.

It’s taken two years, but this week Darcy — along with Health Minister Adrian Dix and Social Development Minister Shane Simpson — took the first steps toward bringing some order to the chaos and overturning years of neglect.

In two separate announcements, what they’re offering is both the stick of tighter regulations and enforcement as well as the carrot of more money for operations and training staff.

The carrots announced Friday include $4,000 grants available immediately to registered and licensed recovery home operators to offset the costs of training for staff before tougher regulations come into force on Dec. 1.

On Oct. 1, the per-diem rate paid for the treatment of people on social assistance will be raised after more than a decade without an increase. Recovery houses on the provincial registry will get a 17-per-cent increase to $35.90, while recovery houses licensed by the regional health authorities will jump to $45 from $40.

The sticks are new regulations that for the first time require things like qualified staff, which common sense should have dictated years ago as essential. Recovery houses will have to provide detailed information about what programs and services they offer. Again, this seems a no-brainer, as does requiring operators to develop personal service plans for each resident and support them as they transition out of residential care.

As for enforcement, the “incremental, remedial approach” to complaints has been scrapped and replaced with the power to take immediate action rather than waiting for a month and giving written notice to the operators.

Darcy is also among the first to admit that much, much more needs to be done to rein in bad operators whose purported treatment houses are flophouses and to provide addicts and their families with the resources they need to discern the good from the bad.

More than most, the minister knows the toll that poor funding and lack of regulation is taking both on addicts who seek help and on their loved ones. She’s haunted by meetings she’s had with the loved ones of those who have died in care and those who couldn’t get the services they needed.

“It’s the most difficult thing that I have to do and, of course, it moves me to my core,” she said in an interview following the announcement. “People say, ‘Do you ever get used to it?’ Of course I don’t. If you ever get used to it, you’re doing the wrong job.

“But I try and take that to drive me and to drive our government to do more and to move quickly and act on all fronts and having said that, there’s a lot to do. There’s really, really a lot to do.”

Among those she’s met are the two mothers of men who died within days of each other in December under deplorable conditions in two provincially registered recovery houses run by Step By Step.


B.C. Minister of Mental Health and Addictions Judy Darcy shares a laugh with Scott Kolodychuk, operations manager of Surrey’s Trilogy House One recovery home where Friday’s news conference was held.

Mike Bell /

PNG

It was four to six hours before 22-year-old Zach Plett’s body was found after he overdosed and died. On Christmas Eve, a 35-year-old man died at a different Step by Step house. It was two days before his body was found by other residents.

Two years before those men died, the provincial registrar had received dozens of complaints and issued dozens of non-compliances orders. Both houses remained on the registry until this summer when owner/operator Debbie Johnson voluntarily closed them.

After years of relentless advocacy Susan Sanderson, executive director of Realistic Recovery Society, was happy to host the ministers’ Friday announcement at one of its houses. She wants to believe Darcy that these are just first steps since the per-diem rate is still short of the $40 she and others lobbied for and remains a small fraction of what people who aren’t on welfare are charged — charges that can run up to $350 a day.

Having taken these long overdue and much-needed initial steps, maybe Darcy and her colleagues can take another logical next step to support working people getting access recovery who — without access to employee benefit plans — can’t afford the cost of treatment.

They shouldn’t have to wait until they’re destitute to get care, any more than someone on welfare should be deprived of help.

dbramham@postmedia.com

Twitter.com/bramham_daphne

Related

CLICK HERE to report a typo.

Is there more to this story? We’d like to hear from you about this or any other stories you think we should know about. Email vantips@postmedia.com.

13Mar

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip: ‘I want my son’s death to be meaningful’

by admin

“There’s no way to describe the enormous shock a parent experiences when you get a phone call informing you … You lose your ability to stand, and you sink into the closest chair. Your heart stops and you just can’t believe it. This terrible wave of shock goes through your entire body.”

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip took that terrible call last August from his wife, Joan. She was nearly hysterical.

“The minute I heard her, I thought, ‘Oh, no. Oh, no.’ She kept saying over and over, ‘He’s gone. He’s gone.’”

It was Aug. 7, 2018, the day after Kenny Phillip’s 42nd birthday. Their oldest son had died alone in a hotel room of a carfentanil overdose in Grand Prairie, Alta.

“I don’t think he knew that he had taken carfentanil,” his father told me. “But nobody was more well-versed in addictions and the variety of drugs available than he was.

“Having gone through so many treatment programs, he had high level of expertise. He knew everything about his addictions, the pattern and so forth. Yet he still was vulnerable to the powerful call of the addiction.”

Kenny struggled with addiction to drugs and alcohol since he was a teenager, and had been to at least half a dozen treatment programs. Still, his father said, “You’re never ready for that phone call.”

His son followed the usual cycle. Bouts of drug and alcohol use punctuated by detox, treatment and periods of recovery. His longest recovery period lasted nearly three years. But this time, his parents were optimistic that it was different.

He had graduated from the Round Lake Treatment Centre. He was working as an apprentice mechanic. He loved it. He had been obsessed with cars since he was a kid. One of the people who worked with him in Penticton described Kenny to me as “a helluva guy.”

After he died, a former co-worker designed a logo with two crossed wrenches, Kenny’s initials with the years 1976 and 2018, and had decals made up so that his friends could honour him by sticking them on their toolboxes.

Phillip says something happened when Kenny went up to northwestern Alberta, triggering his addiction. And given Grande Prairie’s reputation as a crossroads for drugs, he wouldn’t have had to go far to find them.

Northwest of Edmonton, Grande Prairie has had several recent large drug busts. In January, RCMP seized four kilos of crystal methamphetamine, 2.2 kilos of cocaine, 200 grams of heroin, about 5,500 oxycodone tablets and about 950 fentanyl tablets.

A few months earlier, guns, ammunition as well as meth, cocaine, heroin and magic mushrooms were seized in a follow-up to a July raid.

“I have first-hand knowledge,” Phillip said. “I started drinking when I was 15, and was 40-something when I sobered up. It was the hardest thing that I ever did, and I was an alcoholic not strung out on crystal meth and some of the street drugs.

“But I know that at the end of the day, it’s up to the person. The individual.”

Seven years into marriage with, at the time, three children — two daughters and Kenny — Phillip’s wife told him she was finished with the fighting, picking him up when he was drunk, and buying liquor for him. But if he wanted to carry on, he was free to go.

“I thought, ‘Free at last,’” Phillip recalled. “I lasted a month. I was downtown drinking with all my so-called buddies talking about my newfound freedom. One evening in a Chinese restaurant — nobody else was there — I put in an order and was staring at the tabletop. I just broke down. I started crying and then howling.

“The howling was coming from the soul. I was scared stiff.”

At that moment, he realized his stark choice.

“If kept going, I was going to die at my own hand. But to contemplate stopping … which at the time was like contemplating to stop breathing or stop eating because it was such an integral part of who I was.”

What had kept Phillip from suicide, he told the Georgia Strait in May 2018, was the thought of his son. “I thought he would have to grow up with that stigma.”

With the help of Joan and Emery Gabriel, a drug and alcohol counsellor and the only sober friend Phillip had, he got into treatment at the Nechako Centre and has never relapsed.

Every day, Phillip thanks the Creator for sobriety because abstinence has enabled him to take on the work he has done and continues to do as president of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, grand chief of the Okanagan Nation, and as a board member for Round Lake Treatment Centre.

Phillip grieves for the “incredible, amazing young man who touched so many different lives” and for the choice Kenny made last August, knowing full well the risk he was taking in the midst of the opioid overdose crisis.

He speaks openly, and urges others to as well, because those who have died need champions to bring about change.

“I want my son’s death to be meaningful,” Phillip said. “The path forward has to be an abundance of resources to help those who are struggling with addictions. … More treatment centres, more programs, and a greater commitment from governments and society to pick up the responsibility for it.”

So far, governmental response has been “minimalist,” said Phillip.

“This notion of harm reduction is just kicking the issue down the road. It’s not dealing with getting people from an addictive state to where they are clean and sober. That’s what we need to do.”

As for cannabis legalization, Phillip said, “I just shake my head when I think of where we are at and the direction we are going.”

dbramham@postmedia.com

Twitter: @bramham_daphne


Source link

20Oct

Salmonella outbreak: 37 cases in B.C. may be linked to cucumbers

by admin





The Public Health Agency of Canada says an investigation is underway into an outbreak of salmonella infections involving five provinces, with 37 confirmed cases in British Columbia.


sommail / Getty Images/iStockphoto

The Public Health Agency of Canada says an investigation is underway into an outbreak of salmonella infections involving five provinces, mostly in Western Canada.

The agency says on its website that the source of the outbreak has not been identified yet, although many of the people who became sick reported eating cucumbers.

It says that as of Friday, there have been 37 confirmed cases in B.C., five in Alberta, and one case each in Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Quebec.

The person from Quebec reported travelling to British Columbia before becoming ill, the agency says.

The cases occurred between mid-June and late-September, and nine people have been hospitalized.

The agency says it’s collaborating with provincial public health agencies, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and Health Canada as part of the investigation.

“The outbreak appears to be ongoing, as illnesses continue to be reported,” the statement on the Public Health Agency of Canada website says.

No deaths have been reported.

The agency says there is no evidence at this time to suggest that residents in central and Eastern Canada are affected by this outbreak.

Salmonella infection usually results from eating raw or undercooked meat, poultry, eggs or egg products.

Healthy people may experience short-term symptoms such as fever, headache, vomiting, nausea, abdominal cramps and diarrhea. Long-term complications may include severe arthritis.

Related


CLICK HERE to report a typo.

Is there more to this story? We’d like to hear from you about this or any other stories you think we should know about. Email vantips@postmedia.com


Source link

This website uses cookies and asks your personal data to enhance your browsing experience.