B.C. advocacy group fears involuntary treatment could be deadly

Involuntary treatment has been floated in various forms from B.C.’s two major political parties in recent months to address the toxic drug crisis, but an advocacy group has come out with a detailed rebuttal.

The PIVOT Legal Society has released what it calls a position paper, outlining its concerns about a proposal that both the BC NDP and BC Liberals have flirted with in various forms amid a toxic drug crisis which shows no sign of ending any time soon.

“Basically, the logic is that if you’re forced into treatment, your tolerance is therefore lowered and you’re discharged into a setting where the supply is so toxic and so poisonous, that even using once can cause you to overdose fatally and non-fatally,” said Tyson Singh Kelsall, a Downtown Eastside outreach social worker who edited the PIVOT position paper.

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Premier David Eby pitched expanded involuntary treatment while seeking the leadership of the BC NDP  before seemingly taking a step back on the topic after getting the top job.

The opposition BC Liberals have pushed for an expansion in specific circumstances as well.

“This paper is coming out at a time when the discourse is coming from both sides of the political aisle to show that it would be an extremely dangerous and potentially deadly policy idea,” said Kelsall.

Earlier this month, Liberal MLA Elenore Sturko introduced a private member’s bill that would see changes to B.C.’s Mental Health Act legislation. The tweak would ensure that anyone brought to the hospital under the act would be kept until medical staff get a better idea of their mental health challenges.

The paper makes a number of recommendations, including an expansion of voluntary treatment options, more funding for safe supply and eliminating the use of police in mental health situations.

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