This week we wrote a story about council planning to meet with B.C.’s Ministry of Health to discuss what seems to be a growing concern in our community – mental health and addiction issues.
According to the Burns Lake RCMP, the number of calls that the detachment receives related to mental health occurrences has been increasing since January 2016. But other indicators also seem to have worsen in recent years.
According to the Human Early Learning Partnership’s EDI data, Burns Lake seems to be going backwards when it comes to children’s vulnerability. While children’s physical, social and emotional vulnerability decreased between 2009 and 2011, these three indicators increased between 2013 and 2016.
Some people in our community believe this may be connected to the fact that our once thriving college, which used to offer a successful hub model of service for family programs, had 323 full-time equivalent (FTE) students and 124 staff just three years ago; in 2016/17, the local campus was down to 49 FTE students and 22 staff.
During a council meeting earlier this summer, members of a group that’s been trying to bring a new college campus to Burns Lake questioned how the College of New Caledonia’s (CNC) decline might be affecting our community, and where Burns Lake will be in the long run if this issue is not addressed.
After being on the fence about this issue for a long time, council recently decided to invite the CNC administration to a council meeting to find out what the college is doing to address the declining number of students.
It’s important to point out that the Burns Lake area does have programs available for the most vulnerable in our community – from counselling to addiction services. However, finding information about these programs is not the easiest task. I – the town’s reporter – have had difficulty myself listing and understanding what programs are offered, so I wonder how a person without investigative skills and in need of immediate help would find the resources that they need.
Other initiatives to protect the most vulnerable in Burns Lake have been attempted, but didn’t seem to go anywhere.
Skeena-Bulkley Valley MP Nathan Cullen held a meeting in Burns Lake last summer to discuss the need for a homeless shelter for men in the Burns Lake area. However, several months after this meeting, no action had been taken to move this project forward. Lakes District News attempted to contact Cullen several times to ask why this project had not moved forward, but he did not provide a response.
With a local college that seems to be prioritizing distance learning, children’s vulnerability increasing in our area, local services that are not easy to find and projects that do not move forward, did council wait until too long to start taking action?