People Not Addicts

The Downtown Eastside is a fascinating collection of individuals and families, artists and scholars, entrepreneurs and innovators, healthcare and social practitioners and residents of different levels of income.

When Vancouver residents drive down Hastings Street and witness the squalor, desperation, drug use and violence, we tend to judge those at-risk individuals primarily as addicts, who have chosen this lifestyle.

As a reflection of this collective judgement, our politicians and healthcare system have historically treated these residents in terms of addiction, placing the Methadone Maintenance Treatment program as a focal point of the community and making the provision of MMT disproportionately lucrative. The unfortunate result of this compensation structure was the commercialization of addiction treatment and the creation of a hyper-competitive pharmacy environment.

The Downtown Eastside developed the most number of pharmacies per capita in the country, while incidents of inducements, extortion and inappropriate billings to the government were all uncovered as time progressed.

In recent years, different levels of government and regulatory bodies have pursued a more progressive policy of healthcare support on the DTES that includes a diversified approach to treatment of different people.

The Pier Health Resource Centre believes that each resident of the DTES is a unique individual with a unique story, generations old and must have a unique, customized careplan if they are to achieve maximum health outcomes for themselves.

We refuse to place people “into boxes” and we take great care not to view individuals as statistics.

Even in the presence of addiction, the root cause can be a number of other issues, which likely include social factors that should be acknowledged if we are to provide the best possible support for that person.

Indeed, many residents on the DTES are challenged with addiction of some kind.

At Pier, we place the person, not the addiction, at the centre of our care.