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Mother of Nelson-area drug poisoning victim to meet with minister

A Victoria woman whose son died of drug poisoning near Nelson this year has secured a meeting with the province’s addictions minister.

But Jessica Michalofsky says she isn’t optimistic that much will come out of the face-to-face session with Sheila Malcolmson, scheduled for Thursday afternoon.

Her son Aubrey, 25, died on Aug. 30. He had been part of a methadone program in Nelson, but was having trouble making in into town every day from Winlaw to secure his supply. Consequently, he turned to the black market, with fatal consequences.

Michalofsky literally ran daily marathons around the Ministry of Health building as she called on the government to do more to ensure a safe drug supply in the province.

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She said that, in addition to two emails and media attention, has resulted in the minister agreeing to meet with her.

“I think she just couldn’t avoid me after a while,” Michalofsky said. “I’m going to tell her she needs to step up the action on this issue.”

A provincial government standing committee released a report on the drug crisis this week, which Michalofsky called “frankly, depressing.”

The says the report’s recommendations are too timid.

“It’s ‘evaluate.’ ‘Look into.’ ‘Create relationships.’ Some of them are good guidelines, but the language around them suggest the outcomes that might happen are many years down the road.

“This is the kind of report that should have come out six years ago when crisis began. The report makes such timid recommendations that it’s clear people are going to continue dying.”

She said incoming premier David Eby should not just encourage health professionals to adopt the report’s recommendation, but require them to.

Michalofsky said she doesn’t buy the notion that the wheels of government move slowly, arguing that the response to the pandemic proved things can happen quickly if political will exists.

She thinks the reluctance to act is a combination of getting a lot of people on board and a lack of public awareness of the problem, despite the fact that it has killed more than 10,000 British Columbians since it was declared a public health crisis in 2016.

Michalofsky says her expectations from her meeting with Malcolmson are low, as the minister pointed in an email to things the government is already doing.

“That may be, but the work is so small and on such a small scale that it hasn’t made a difference,” she said. She said the “mischaracterization” of the crisis has caused a “lethargy around the whole thing.”

“This is depicted as a crisis that happens to people who are down and out and living on the street. I have full empathy for those people. They deserve our respect and our care. But that is missing the mark. Young adults are dying in their families’ homes of toxic drugs.”

Michalofsky is also planning a rally outside the legislature on Friday morning, where she expects to be joined by Green Party leader Sonia Furstenau, Victoria’s incoming mayor, and representatives of other groups calling for a safe drug supply.

“The rally is a way of saying talk is cheap. It’s time for action. We’re grieving, we’re mad, and we’re not going away. We need to act like this is a public health crisis or else family members are going to continue to die.”

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