B.C.’s provincial health officer says the government must act as a new study by the B.C. Centre for disease control shows “welfare Wednesday” triggered 77 overdose deaths over a 5 year period from 2009-2013.
Scienteist Michael Otterstatter with the BC CDC says the boost in deaths is linked to what it calls the “cheque effect.”
“On weeks that income assistance cheques were released, there was actually a 40% increase in illicit drug-related mortality, so quite substantial.”
He says harm-reduction services should be enhanced around the monthly payday.
That has provincial health officer Dr. Perry Kendall calling for swift action.
“So there is two ways of dealing with that, one is to have awareness, heightened awareness of first responders and emergency rooms, that will be in place. The other is to see if there are other ways of spacing out the cheque distribution so it doesn’t always have to be on one day. Direct deposit goes to a lot of people, and I think this is something the Ministry of Social Development will be looking at very closely.”
Kendall says the monthly boost of cash in people’s pockets can cause problems as people are tempted to spend what “looks like expendable cash.”
Health Minister Terry Lake says he’s looking into it but there could be unintended consequences.
“Landlords need to be paid a certain time each month, but that doesn’t mean we don’t look at those challenges and see if there are ways we can overcome that.”
Concern over a potentially deadly mix with “welfare Wednesday” coming as a batch of fentanyl tainted crack cocaine hit Surrey streets prompted Fraser Health to implement an action plan today, linking doctors, paramedics, police and social services.
Earlier this month, Surrey saw 36 overdoses in a 48 hour period linked to the bad batch of drugs.