Chilliwack has been forced to bear the brunt of the public’s ire over discarded needles and increased numbers of people shooting up in public, and has asked Fraser Health for help. (Black Press file) Chilliwack has been forced to bear the brunt of the public’s ire over discarded needles and increased numbers of people shooting up in public, and has asked Fraser Health for help. (Black Press file)

Fraser Health responds to criticism by Chilliwack council

The scathing rebuke came as a surprise to Fraser Health given more outreach funding for Chilliwack

Fraser Health was “surprised” by criticism coming out of Chilliwack council chambers this week about how the health authority is dealing with street-level addiction in Chilliwack.

Chilliwack council passed a unanimous resolution July 18 asking Fraser Health to come and address the community “directly,” to deal with the “gaps in service” since Chilliwack has borne the brunt of the public’s ire over dramatic increases in discarded needles and increased numbers of people shooting up in the streets and parks.

But a Fraser Health rep said no official invite to Chilliwack had arrived yet, despite a scathing rebuke offered by councillors at the last meeting.

“At this time, we haven’t received a formal request to speak with the council, though we have learned that there is a desire for us to do so,” said Tasleem Juma, Fraser Health spokesperson.

“We are always open to speak with them. We would like to learn more about their concerns to ensure all of the right stakeholders are present – health, housing, etc. – and ensure we can respond to their questions.”

Fraser Health has “engaged regularly” with municipal stakeholders to discuss what they do, the services offered and their “approach to caring for people with mental health and substance” use issues.

In fact they’ve been in contact “a dozen times” with Chilliwack officials in the last six months and are “committed to continuing.”

Some council members have called for a fully funded ICM team for Chilliwack. A peer program for picking up used needles didn’t materialize they way it was supposed to.

Fraser Health claims they’ve already focused on expanding services.

”We are surprised by the recent discussions in the media given the investments we’ve made in Chilliwack, including expanding Chilliwack’s outreach team. This has allowed the team to provide services seven days per week, 12 hours per day. Previously we were providing service seven hours per day/five days per week,” said Juma in an emailed statement.

“The expanded outreach team provides services to people with serious mental health or substance use problems that require intensive outreach. The team also works with Chilliwack General Hospital’s emergency department and inpatient units to identify patients with substance use needs who can be safely discharged and be better served in a community setting.

Fraser Health has a new outreach position for Indigenous people with mental health and substance use issues, for which recruitment is underway, funded by First Nations Health Authority.

“We also have Riverstone, which provides outreach detox, daytox, and engagement work to 40 clients per week, and the Chilliwack Mental Health Centre continues to provide full service, including outreach and work with the police.”


 

@chwkjourno
jfeinberg@theprogress.com

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