Wednesday » November 7 » 2007
Pastor still waiting for 3 pillars of drug plan
Wednesday, November 07, 2007
T he Lord sent her to help the addicted women in Vancouver's seediest district but it's the politicians and health authorities who are driving Pastor Gloria Kieler crazy.
For seven years the 65-year-old Christian has quietly prayed in her threadbare East Hastings Street storefront chapel for governments to deliver on a vow made in 2000 to build a four-pillar anti-drug program: prevention, treatment, enforcement and harm reduction.
But the only pillar that has attracted the care groups and health authority's attention -- as well as taxpayers' bucks -- is Insite, the harm-reduction injection site, renovated and expanded recently at an added cost of $2 million to better serve the needle users.
So where, she asks, does that leave the 80 per cent of Downtown Eastside junkies who never fix? It leaves them to wait weeks for one of 28 beds -- just six are open to women -- in Cardova detox, the only clinic like it in the neighbourhood, home to more than 7,000 junkies, most of whom smoke crack cocaine.
She said Vancouver Coastal Health claims the wait is now two days. "But the truth is it's a week or two."
Any addict with the patience to score a detox bed faces an even longer wait for the second phase in a recovery facility. With nowhere else to go, most return to the streets.
Efforts to get VCH to cough up funds for more detox beds and shelters for the stabilization and recovery phases have been in vain.
"The faith-based groups weren't big on the injection-site idea when it was announced but we gave it our support because we were told it was part of a bigger drug-strategy picture," Kieler said candidly. "We were tricked. The situation is the same as it was years ago for women trying to get off drugs and off the streets."
Kieler embarked on the spiritual quest in the city's underbelly after the Lord appeared in a vision 23 years ago. She opened the Living Waters Mission in 1992 and to her surprise found most of the women wanted to turn their back on a sick, destitute lifestyle but found a lack of resources to help them pull it off.
She said the women she's encouraged to go into detox are daunted by the 50-person wait list. They quickly lose hope and return to the street. A few ended up at the Pickton farm and weren't seen again.
The pastor is convinced that the cash used for Insite's facelift and the extension of its facilities -- 12 new detox beds for injectors only on the floor above the shooting gallery -- was earmarked for detox and recovery. If it wasn't, it should have been.
"How is VCH meeting the expectations of Vancouver citizens to clean up this addiction problem?"
An elitist hierarchy in the Downtown Eastside is working to starve out the tried-and-true existing facilities, she says, so they can lay claim to having introduced innovative, cutting-edge European strategies, which, she argues, are totally unsuitable here.
"VCH [must] stick to its responsibility to correctly examine the problem and apply the appropriate solution. And it doesn't mean legalizing drugs or supplying addicts for free.
"Do we keep alcoholics on booze? Smokers on tobacco? Of course not, so why do they think supplying free drugs to addicts is the answer?"
© The Vancouver Province 2007