Drug-related overdoses and deaths are a very serious concern across the country. B.C. declared a public health emergency in April 2016 and public health officials, front-line health providers, first responders, the BC Coroners Service and law enforcement are taking a comprehensive approach to address this crisis.
Further information is also available here: http://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/health/about-bc-s-health-care-system/office-of-the-provincial-health-officer/current-health-topics
Recent government actions to prevent drug overdose deaths in B.C. include the following. Note: Items marked NEW have occurred since the last update on May 31, 2017:
Overdose Prevention Sites
- NEW: June 6, 2017: Interior Health opened a mobile overdose prevention unit in Kamloops: https://www.interiorhealth.ca/AboutUs/MediaCentre/NewsReleases/Documents/Mobile%20overdose%20prevention%20unit%20for%20Kamloops.pdf
- May 23, 2017: AIDS Vancouver Island and Island Health opened a service in Campbell River: http://www.viha.ca/about_viha/news/news_releases/nr_overdosepreventionCampRiver_23052017.htm
- May 16, 2017: A women’s-only overdose prevention site opened in the Downtown Eastside: http://www.vch.ca/about-us/news/news-releases/women-only-overdose-prevention-site-opens-in-the-downtown-eastside
- May 9, 2017: The Port Alberni Shelter Society and Island Health opened an overdose prevention services in Port Alberni: http://www.viha.ca/about_viha/news/news_releases/psa_portalberni_09May2017.htm
- April 26, 2017: Interior Health opened B.C.’s first mobile overdose prevention site in Kelowna: https://www.interiorhealth.ca/AboutUs/MediaCentre/NewsReleases/Documents/Mobile%20overdose%20unit%20to%20replace%20Ellis%20overdose%20site.pdf
- NEW: Since Dec. 8, 2016 23 overdose prevention sites and two mobile overdose prevention service have seen more than 200,000 visits and have reversed more than 1,800 overdoses with zero deaths. In June, two overdose prevention sites in Surrey were converted into supervised consumption services, following federal approval.
- Overdose prevention sites are located in: Abbotsford (1), Langley (1), Maple Ridge (1), Kamloops (2 sites and 1 mobile unit), Kelowna (1 mobile unit), Vancouver (5), Prince George (1), Victoria (4), Nanaimo (1), Comox Valley (1), Campbell River (1), Port Alberni (1)
- A Mobile Medical Unit stationed in the Downtown Eastside treated more than 2,700 patients, including 589 patients for overdoses, from Dec. 13, 2016 to April 2, 2017.
- Dec. 9, 2016: A ministerial order was enacted to support overdose prevention sites: news.gov.bc.ca/releases/2016HLTH0094-002737
- Dec. 8, 2016: Overdose prevention sites and a mobile medical unit opened: news.gov.bc.ca/releases/2016HLTH0092-002646
Supervised Consumption Services
- NEW: June 27, 2017: Fraser Health received exemption to supervise consumption of oral and intra-nasal substances at SafePoint in Surrey. Since its opening, SafePoint has had more than 1,000 visits and reversed 19 overdoses with zero deaths: http://news.fraserhealth.ca/News/June-2017/Exemption-supervised-consumption-oral-intra-nasal.aspx?feed=News
- NEW: June 20, 2017: Island Health submitted its second application for supervised consumption services in Victoria: http://www.viha.ca/about_viha/news/news_releases/NR_second_scs_application_victoria_20June2017.htm
- NEW: June 6, 2017: Fraser Health opened two supervised consumption sites in Surrey: http://news.fraserhealth.ca/News/June-2017/two-supervised-consumption-sites-surrey.aspx
- May 26, 2017, Health Canada approved a new supervised consumption service in the Downtown Eastside and two in Surrey: http://www.vch.ca/about-us/news/news-releases/health-canada-gives-green-light-to-new-supervised-injection-service-in-vancouver; http://news.fraserhealth.ca/News/May-2017/Fraser-Health-receives-Health-Canada-approval.aspx
- May 15, 2017, Vancouver Coastal released the results of a drug checking pilot project at Insite: http://www.vch.ca/about-us/news/news-releases/drug-checking-at-insite-shows-potential-for-preventing-fentanyl-related-overdoses
- March 28, 2017: Interior Health submitted applications for mobile supervised consumption services in Kelowna and Kamloops.
- Jan. 3, 2017: Island Health submitted an application for Victoria: www.viha.ca/about_viha/news/news_releases/NR_SCS_Application_3Jan2017.htm
- Oct. 31, 2016: Vancouver Coastal Health submitted two applications for Vancouver: www.vch.ca/about-us/news/news-releases/vch-submits-applications-for-2-new-supervised-injection-services
- NEW: As of June 26, 2017, 49,303 no-charge naloxone kits have been distributed through the Take Home Naloxone Program – approximately 22,000 of them in 2016 and more than 21,000 so far in 2017. Kits are now available at 551 locations in B.C.: infograph.venngage.com/publish/2245254a-ccaa-461b-87ec-ec97a4840525
- As of May 12, 2017: Facility Overdose Response Boxes with naloxone have been distributed to 259 community organizations: https://towardtheheart.com/naloxone/forb/
- May 4, 2017: A Naloxone risk assessment tool has been developed to provide guidance to organizations as they assess if should acquire naloxone and train staff to administer it in the event of an opioid overdose:http://www2.gov.bc.ca/assets/gov/overdose-awareness/naloxone_risk_assessment_-_non-governmental_sectors.pdf
- April 12, 2017: The BC Centre for Disease Control has developed an online learning module for educators outlining what to do in the event of a witnessed or suspected overdose: http://towardtheheart.com/naloxone-course/
- Feb. 23, 2017: Guidelines on best practice advice and resources on prevention, recognition and response to overdoses were distributed to providers of supportive housing and homeless shelters: www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/health/about-bc-s-health-care-system/office-of-the-provincial-health-officer/current-health-topics
- On Oct. 13, 2016 regulations under the Health Professions Act and the Emergency Health Services Act were amended to expand the number of people allowed to administer naloxone outside of a hospital setting, and on Jan. 20, 2017, the health minister signed a Ministerial Order to allow naloxone to be administered on hospital grounds outside of the clinical setting in which a naloxone prescription was required by federal regulation. Following this, Health Canada amended the Prescription Drug List on Feb. 2, 2017 to allow for the administration of naloxone by anyone for emergency response of an overdose in a hospital setting: http://towardtheheart.com/assets/uploads/THN%20timeline_Colour%2020170628.pdf
- On Dec. 7, 2016, all licensed or registered treatment facilities in B.C. were directed to carry naloxone and ensure staff are trained to administer it.
- The Ministry of Children and Family Development now offers no-charge naloxone kits and training to foster parents, community partners and ministry staff in communities in the Lower Mainland and southern Vancouver Island.
- Sept. 21, 2016: The BC Drug Schedules Regulation is amended to allow for the sale of naloxone outside of a pharmacy: www.bcpharmacists.org/news/non-prescription-naloxone-now-available-outside-pharmacies
Opioid Substitution Treatment
- NEW: Since Oct. 1, 2016, the BC Centre on Substance Use (BCCSU) has hosted 43 training sessions in 31 locations throughout the province with 1,845 health-care providers on how best to treat patients with opioid addiction – in particular how to safely and appropriately prescribe Suboxone.
- NEW: June 5, 2017: BCCSU became responsible for the educational and clinical care guidance activities for health-care professionals who prescribe medications to treat opioid addiction. The BCCSU is transitioning to an online learning environment for the Provincial Opioid Addiction Treatment Support Program set to launch in July. To date, 45 instructors have been recruited with a target to have 10 instructors in each health authority by the end of July: http://www.bccsu.ca/provincial-opioid-addiction-treatment-support-program/
- NEW: May 30, 2017: BCCSU launched a no-cost online addiction medicine diploma program - more than 1,800 healthcare providers have already enrolled: http://www.bccsu.ca/news-release/bc-centre%C2%AD-on-substance-use-launches-new-online-addiction-training-program/
- May 16, 2017: Rapid Access Addiction Clinic opened in Victoria: http://www.viha.ca/about_viha/news/news_releases/NR_RAAC_Victoria_16May17.htm
- The number of people started on opioid substitution therapy Suboxone (and its generic buprenorphine/naloxone) increased from an average of 192 per month in fiscal year 2015-16, to 403 in 2016-17. In 2016-17, there were 889 physicians prescribing buprenorphine/naloxone, up from 401 in 2015-16.
- March 1, 2017: Vancouver Coastal Health opened Connections: www.vch.ca/about-us/news/news-releases/new-on-demand-addiction-treatment-clinic-opens-in-vancouvers-downtown-eastside
- Feb 16, 2017: With funding support from the Ministry of Health, the University of Victoria’s Centre for Addictions Research developed Patients Helping Patients Understand Opioid Substitution Treatment: www.uvic.ca/research/centres/carbc/assets/docs/ost-patient.pdf
- Feb. 7, 2017: The Province announced $5 million in funding for the BCCSU, as well as $1.9 million a year for operating costs. As part of its early work, the centre developed the Guideline for the Clinical Management of Opioid Use Disorder to take effect June 5, 2017: www2.gov.bc.ca/assets/gov/health/practitioner-pro/bc-guidelines/bc_oud_guidelines.pdf
- On Feb. 1, 2017: PharmaCare began covering methadone for maintenance and buprenorphine/naloxone under its Psychiatric Medications Plan (Plan G): https://news.gov.bc.ca/releases/2017HLTH0008-000088
- Jan. 6, 2017: Nurse practitioners became authorized to refill Suboxone prescriptions: crnbc.ca/Standards/Announcements/2016/Pages/naloxone_suboxone.aspx
- Sept. 28, 2016: Government announced $5 million to support the BC Centre on Substance Use: news.gov.bc.ca/releases/2016PREM0117-001844
- July 1, 2016: The College of Physicians and Surgeons of B.C. made it easier for doctors to prescribe Suboxone: www.cpsbc.ca/files/pdf/MBMT-Clinical-Practice-Guideline.pdf
- June 1, 2016: The College of Physicians and Surgeons of B.C. adopted new professional standards on safe prescribing: www.cpsbc.ca/for-physicians/college-connector/2016-V04-03/02
- Oct. 13, 2015: PharmaCare began offering Suboxone as a regular benefit: news.gov.bc.ca/releases/2015HLTH0079-001698
Treatment and Recovery Beds
- April 4, 2017: The Province announced having opened 500 additional new substance-use treatment and intervention beds: news.gov.bc.ca/releases/2017HLTH0079-001046
- April 4, 2017: Ashnola at The Crossing opened: news.gov.bc.ca/releases/2017HLTH0077-001037
- March 2017: The Ministry of Health released Withdrawal Management Guidelines for youth and adults: http://www.health.gov.bc.ca/library/publications/year/2017/youth-withdrawal-management-guidelines-final.pdf
- March 30, 2017: Carlile Youth Concurrent Disorders Centre opened: news.gov.bc.ca/releases/2017HLTH0071-000948
- Jan. 18, 2017: The Province committed $10 million to open 60 additional new intensive residential treatment beds and 50 intensive outpatient treatment spaces: https://news.gov.bc.ca/releases/2017HLTH0008-000088
- May 31, 2017: Through Health Emergency Management BC a new Mobile Response Team made up of 12 practitioners has been established. The team will provide psychosocial support for frontline workers, emergency responders, volunteers and staff from community-based organizations impacted by the overdose crisis. The team will be deployed to areas of the province experiencing high numbers of overdoses.
- March 28, 2017: New police and crisis team was launched in Kelowna: https://www.interiorhealth.ca/AboutUs/MediaCentre/NewsReleases/Documents/New%20police%20and%20crisis%20team%20for%20Kelowna.pdf
- March 9, 2017: BCCDC released guide to non-stigmatizing language: http://www.bccdc.ca/about/news-stories/news-releases/2017/language-matters
- Nov. 25, 2016: Vancouver Coastal Health launched two new outreach programs: www.vch.ca/about-us/news/news-releases/new-programs-to-combat-overdose-crisis
Support for First Responders
- NEW: May 3-30, 2017: Sponsored by the Police Services Division and the Civil Forfeiture Office, the Justice Institute of BC launched fentanyl safety workshops for first responders.
- Nov. 25, 2016: The Province provided $5 million to BC Emergency Health Services: news.gov.bc.ca/releases/2016HLTH0090-002504
- Nov. 8, 2016: The Justice Institute of B.C. launched: www.fentanylsafety.com/
- June, 2016: The Province funded fentanyl-safety training workshops for first responders: news.gov.bc.ca/releases/2016PSSG0118-001025
Enhanced Law Enforcement and Public Safety Efforts
- May 3-30, 2017: Sponsored by the Police Services Division and the Civil Forfeiture Office, the Justice Institute of BC hosted four fentanyl safety workshops for first responders.
- Since the beginning of the program, members of RCMP and municipal departments have had over 190 successful overdose reversals, with over 7,400 members, including sworn and civilian, trained how to administer naloxone.
- Focused efforts by Canada Border Services Agency resulting in 47 seizures of fentanyl or carfentanil weighing a total of 11. 7 kilos in 2016.
- Additional advanced equipment and training, which will enhance the police’s ability to immediately test and detect fentanyl is being acquired.
- The B.C. Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit is leading the provincewide Provincial Tactical Enforcement Priority. As a result of the overdose crisis, police have prioritized investigative resources to target traffickers of these deadly illicit drugs.
- A dedicated 12-member coroner drug investigation team whose focus is investigating accidental illicit drug overdoses is established.
Recent law enforcement efforts:
- June 20, 2017: Charges have been laid in connection with a Williams Lake investigation from May 2017. The individual has been charged with five counts of Possession for the Purpose of Trafficking. The various drugs have been identified as heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine; cannabis and fentanyl: http://williamslake.bc.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/ViewPage.action?siteNodeId=2129&languageId=1&contentId=51551
- June 8, 2017: On Friday June 2, 2017 members of the Vernon North Okanagan RCMP completed an investigation into a dial a dope drug trafficking operation. The investigation led to the arrest of a 27 year old Vernon man. At the time of arrest he was found to be in possession of quantities of cocaine and heroin believed to be for the purpose of trafficking along with other drug trafficking paraphernalia: http://vernon.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/ViewPage.action?siteNodeId=2130&languageId=1&contentId=51423
- June 5, 2017: On June 1st, Oceanside RCMP executed a search warrant. Large quantities of drugs, including a significant amount of suspected opioids, were seized after the home was searched: http://oceanside.bc.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/ViewPage.action?siteNodeId=2130&languageId=1&contentId=51376
- June 1, 2017: On Thursday May 25th, the Nanaimo RCMP Projects Teams with the assistance of the Vancouver Island Emergency Response Team arrested 5 adults and carried out two search warrants. Two ounces of suspected opioids, 3 ounces of cocaine, 8.5 ounces of methamphetamine, numerous weapons, and over $24,000 in cash were seized: http://bc.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/ViewPage.action?siteNodeId=2087&languageId=1&contentId=51353
- May 29, 2017: In Williams Lake, the newly formed Crime Reduction Unit along with General Duty members executed a search warrant that resulted in the seizure of multiple firearms, a variety of drugs, and over twenty thousand dollars in cash from a suspected drug trafficker's residence. Police seized drugs suspected to be crystal meth, cocaine, heroin, shatter and marijuana: http://williamslake.bc.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/ViewPage.action?siteNodeId=2129&languageId=1&contentId=51307
- May 8, 2017: Members of the Penticton Targeted Enforcement Unit charged a 37 year old man with possession of a controlled substance for the purpose of trafficking and possession of stolen property: http://penticton.bc.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/ViewPage.action?siteNodeId=2130&languageId=1&contentId=51088
- May 5, 2017: Surrey RCMP advises that multiple search warrants executed in mid-April at properties alleged to be involved in the street level drug trade. A number of weapons were seized including multiple handguns and crossbows, along with varying amounts of drugs, including 1,100 doses of crystal methamphetamine, 400 doses of heroin/suspected fentanyl, and 9 kilograms of cannabis marijuana: http://surrey.bc.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/ViewPage.action?siteNodeId=2126&languageId=1&contentId=51003
Joint Task Force on Overdose Response
- May 31, 2017: The Ministry of Health released the progress update report: hwww2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/health/about-bc-s-health-care-system/office-of-the-provincial-health-officer/current-health-topics
- Feb. 17, 2017: The Province announced an additional $5 million to support the Joint Task Force on Overdose Response: news.gov.bc.ca/releases/2017HLTH0036-000351
- Feb. 17, 2017: The federal government announced it will provide B.C. with $10 million to support the response: https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/news/2017/02/government_of_canadaannouncesnewfundingtocombatopioidcrisis0.html
The federal funding has been allocated as follows:
- $7 million for increased access to opioid substitution therapies, such as Suboxone and hydromorphone
- $1.5 million to help open additional supervised consumption sites (eight applications have been made to Health Canada, with three recently approved)
- $380,000 to increase testing capacity at the Provincial Toxicology Laboratory
- $120,000 to support for enhanced surveillance and collaborative data analysis to better target the response
- $1 million for treatment and support with transition back to the community for people in correctional facilities
- March 17, 2017: The Province provided $13 million in funding to health authorities to help ease financial pressures from actions taken to respond to the overdose crisis.
- Feb. 22, 2017: The Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research is working to support BC’s Joint Task Force on Overdose Prevention: www.msfhr.org/sites/default/files/RFP_Rapid_Review_of_Jurisdictional_Responses_to_Opioid_Overdose.pdf
- Sept. 28, 2016: The Province announced $5 million to support joint task force strategies: news.gov.bc.ca/releases/2016PREM0117-001844
- July 27, 2016: Government announces the new Joint Task Force on Overdose Response: news.gov.bc.ca/releases/2016PREM0082-001361
Public Engagement and Awareness
- NEW: June 29, 2017: Fraser Health released tips to prevent and respond to overdoses at summer festivals: http://news.fraserhealth.ca/News/June-2017/Tough-Rocker-Guide.aspx
- NEW: June 27, 2017: Interior Health released information on overdose rates in the Okanagan: https://www.interiorhealth.ca/AboutUs/MediaCentre/NewsReleases/Documents/Overdose%20rate%20climbing%20in%20the%20Okanagan.pdf
- NEW: June 15, 2017: Provincial health officer Dr. Perry Kendall sent a letter through schools to parents and guardians encouraging them to speak youth about substance use: http://www2.gov.bc.ca/assets/gov/health/about-bc-s-health-care-system/office-of-the-provincial-health-officer/letter_to_parents_and_guardians-talk_to_your_youth_about_substance_use.pdf
- May, 2017: The provincewide overdose information campaign continues run on social media channels to provide British Columbians with critical public health information on how to prevent, identify and respond to overdoses: https://www.facebook.com/203652059653094/posts/1774144875937130
- April 5, 2017: Dr. Perry Kendall wrote to media outlets across the province encouraging them to run public service announcements.
- March 2017: Northern Health Authority launched an anti-stigma campaign: https://northernhealth.ca/YourHealth/stigma
- First Nations Health Authority has held six overdose townhalls, including Tla’Amin, Musqueum, Cape Mudge, Tsleil-Waututh, First Nations Summit, and Strathcona, and are sharing people’s stories: http://www.fnha.ca/wellness/sharing-our-stories/suboxone-stories-part-1 and http://www.fnha.ca/wellness/sharing-our-stories/suboxone-stories-part-2
- Jan. 23, 2017: Fraser Health launched a web resource: news.fraserhealth.ca/News/January-2017/Mental-health-and-substance-use-resources.aspx
- B.C.’s anti-gang unit, the Combined Special Forces Unit of B.C., continues anti-gang school presentations.
- From Jan. 5-6, 2017, the Ministry of Education held a workshop with 85 members of the education sector, in which Dr. Kendall presented on the overdose crisis.
- Dec. 19, 2016: Resources for parents and people who work with children and youth made available: www.healthlinkbc.ca/substance-use/parenting-articles
- Four teaching modules to support teachers educating children about drugs made available: www.uvic.ca/research/centres/carbc/publications/helping-schools/index.php
- Aug. 31, 2016: Government launched a provincial overdose awareness campaign: gov.bc.ca/overdose
- Fraser Health prepared an information kit for schools and parents: www.fraserhealth.ca/media/Overdose_SchoolToolkit_FINAL.pdf
- Community outreach and awareness campaigns are in place in every health authority.
- NEW: June 28, 2017: Health Canada announced that B.C. can now arrange for importing several additional medications used in other countries to treat opioid addiction: https://www.canada.ca/en/healthcanada/news/2017/06/government_of_canadaenablesnewaccesstodrugsinurgentpublichealths.html
- May 18, 2017: Bill C-37, an Act to Amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act and related amendments became law: https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/news/2017/05/royal_assent_of_billc-37anacttoamendthecontrolleddrugsandsubstan.html
- May 4, 2017: The federal “Good Samaritan Drug Overdose Act”, which grants immunity from minor drug possession charges for any person calling 911 to help someone who has overdosed became law: https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/news/2017/05/good_samaritan_drugoverdoseactbecomeslawincanada.html
- March 3, 2017: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau visited the Connections clinic in the Downtown Eastside and met with people on the front lines of B.C.’s overdose crisis.
- Feb. 17, 2017: Federal government announced $65 million over five years to support a federal response to the opioid crisis. In addition to this, British Columbia will receive $10 million in urgent support: www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/news/2017/02/government_of_canadaannouncesnewfundingtocombatopioidcrisis0.html
- Feb. 2, 2017, and again on March 3 2017, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau visited the frontlines of the overdose crisis in Vancouver. In addition, the Prime Minister also met with provincial health officer Dr. Perry Kendall on March 3, 2017 to discuss the opioid crisis.
- The federal government has established the Special Advisory Committee on the Epidemic of Opioid Overdoses, which includes representatives from B.C.: www.phn-rsp.ca/sac-opioid-gcs-opioides/index-eng.php
- Nov. 24, 2016: The RCMP and Chinese Ministry of Public Safety announced efforts against illegal fentanyl trafficking into Canada: news.gov.bc.ca/releases/2016PSSG0236-002494
- Nov. 18-19, 2016: B.C. representatives attend the federal Conference on Opioid Overdoses in Ottawa: news.gov.bc.ca/releases/2016HLTH0086-002457
- Nov. 17, 2016: The Province led a delegation of people personally affected by overdoses to Ottawa news.gov.bc.ca/stories/fighting-the-overdose-crisis-in-bc
- Nov. 10, 2016: Ministers Lake and Morris and B.C. first responders met with federal Health Minister Jane Philpott to discuss actions to address the crisis.
- Oct. 6, 2016: Deputy provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and chief coroner Lisa Lapointe present to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Health: http://www.ourcommons.ca/Content/Committee/421/HESA/Brief/BR8475469/br-external/BritishColumbiaMinistryOfHealth-e.pdf
Public Health Emergency
- NEW: June 8, 2017: BCCDC began posting weekly overdose data updates including number of illegal drug overdoses attended by the BC Ambulance Service, 9-1-1 calls for ingestion poisoning, statistics on overdose prevention services, and geographic distribution of illegal drug overdose deaths: http://www.bccdc.ca/health-professionals/clinical-resources/harm-reduction/overdose-data-reports
- March 2017: BCCDC posted its latest report on the Public Health Emergency: www.bccdc.ca/health-professionals/clinical-resources/harm-reduction/overdose-data-reports
- April 14, 2016: Provincial health officer Dr. Perry Kendall declares a public health emergency: news.gov.bc.ca/releases/2016HLTH0026-000568
BC Drug Overdose and Alert Partnership
- NEW: June 16, 2017: The second BC Overdose Action Exchange was held with 120 participants: http://www.bccdc.ca/about/news-stories/news-releases/2017/turning-ideas-into-action-to-help-save-lives
- June 9, 2016: More than 80 experts met for the BC Overdose Action Exchange summit: www.bccdc.ca/resource-gallery/Documents/BCOAE-Meeting-Report.pdf
- The BC Drug Overdose and Alert Partnership was established in 2011: www.bccdc.ca/health-professionals/clinical-resources/harm-reduction/bc-drug-overdose-alert-partnership-doap