Police blocked off 72nd Avenue east of 208th Street on Oct. 23 after the death of a man during an RCMP arrest. (Langley Advance Times files)

Man died near former unlicenced drug recovery home in Willoughby

The death is under investigation by the IIO

Rumours have connected a former unlicenced drug rehab house to the death of a man in Langley last week, but officials say the home closed months ago.

On Wednesday, Oct. 23 a man died after being taken into custody by the Langley RCMP. Following that, rumours swirled on social media that a home near the site on 72nd Avenue, east of 208th Street, was a drug rehab house.

However, the house had been shut down by Langley Township months ago. The Independent Investigation Office (IIO), which is investigating the death, was not aware of the recovery house’s existence at all, said IIO chief civilian director Ron MacDonald.

“An unlicenced drug recovery facility located on a property in the area was investigated by bylaw enforcement staff, and subsequently brought into compliance in spring of 2019,” said a statement from the Township.

Langley RCMP did not have any information about that former rehab house.

The death took place after a dropped 9-1-1 call around 3 a.m. last Wednesday drew police to investigate. They found a man under the influence of drugs, and there was an altercation when he was arrested. He lost consciousness after he was arrested, and officers and medical responders gave CPR, but he was pronounced dead.

The IIO is now looking into the incident, as it does with all deaths that involve police response in B.C.

READ MORE: Police watchdog investigates early morning fatality in Langley

“In general, unlicenced drug recovery facilities are not a problem in the Township,” said the Township’s statement. “In 2016, there were a number of them that were identified and shut down. Since, we have not experienced a similar volume of issues.”

That year, the Langley RCMP reported shutting down five of the unlicenced recovery centres through a few month period, including one with 22 people living in one house.

Most of them were in the 208th Street corridor in Willoughby, in older homes in areas awaiting redevelopment.

READ MORE: Langley RCMP crack down on unlicensed drug recovery centres

The Township said there hasn’t been a significant number of the recovery homes since 2016. But they haven’t been extinguished.

A shortage of licenced drug recovery homes has created a market for recovery houses of any kind. A 2014 Fraser Health report found there were 240 drug recovery houses in the health region, but just eight were properly licenced.

READ MORE: Lack of addiction treatment flagged by crime panel

Pastor Leith White of Friends Langley Vineyard, which conducts extensive outreach to the homeless, said he still hears of such homes.

“Had a fellow approach me a few weeks back to ask me if I came across people who were looking for such a place, if I could recommend him,” White told the Langley Advance Times.

The man didn’t give any name or contact info, and White didn’t make any commitments to send people his way.

“There’s a lot of people out there who take advantage of this very vulnerable people group,” White said.

“They know that they can get away with well-under substandard conditions, running operations that often prey on and take advantage of a very vulnerable and at risk people group,” he added.

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