BC Liberal Mental Health and Addictions Critic Jane Thornthwaite wants the province to change the way it distributes welfare payments.
She introduced the Welfare Payment System Reflection Act in the legislature recently, calling on the government to take action on the ongoing opioid crisis in the province and the toll it is taking on first responders who work on the front lines of the crisis.
She said the implementation of this bill will mean social assistance cheques are distributed throughout the month instead of all at once. This would give first responders some relief in the days after the cheques are distributed.
This legislation follows calls for increasing access to treatment and recovery options for those who are struggling with addictions.
“Staggering the distribution of income assistance cheques is the first step in reducing the strain the opioid crisis is taking on first responders and resources in this province,” says Thornthwaite.
“In the days following the monthly distribution of income assistance cheques, first responders and medical services are overloaded,” she said.
During the week that income assistance payments are distributed, the average number of overdose deaths increases by 36.8 per cent. These increases are taking a toll on the resources needed to handle these incidents and the frontline workers who are responding to the calls, she said.
During a cheque week in 2018, the city of Vancouver saw 40 overdose calls on what is commonly referred to as “Welfare Wednesday”, 47 the following day and 45 on Friday that week.