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 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 March 17, 2017:
Overdose Prevention Sites and B.C.’s Mobile Medical Unit
- NEW: March 30, 2017: Comox Valley opened overdose prevention site: http://www.viha.ca/about_viha/news/news_releases/psa_overdose_prevention_March302017.htm
- Overdose prevention sites are located in: Abbotsford (1), Langley (1), Maple Ridge (2), Surrey (2), Kamloops (2), Kelowna (1), Vancouver (4), Prince George (1), Victoria (4), Nanaimo (1), Comox Valley (1)
- NEW: From Dec. 8, 2016 to April 2, 2017, 20 overdose prevention sites around the province have had more than 66,000 visits and reversed more than 480 overdoses, with zero deaths.
- NEW: Since Dec. 13, 2016, the province’s Mobile Medical Unit station in the Downtown Eastside treated more than 2,500 patients, including 566 patients for overdoses.
- Dec. 9, 2016: Health Minister Terry Lake enacted a ministerial order 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: March 28, 2017: Interior Health submitted applications for mobile supervised consumption services in Kelowna and Kamloops.
- NEW: Joint Task Force co-chairs Clayton Pecknold and Perry Kendall presented to the senate committee on Bill C-37.
- Feb. 17, 2017: Fraser Health submitted two applications for Surrey: news.fraserhealth.ca/News/February-2017/Fraser-Health-scs-application.aspx
- Jan. 3, 2017: Island Health submitted an application for Victoria: www.viha.ca/about_viha/news/news_releases/NR_SCS_Application_3Jan2017.htm
- Dec. 6, 2016: Fraser Health announced proposed locations: news.fraserhealth.ca/News/December-2016/Fraser-Health-supervised-consumption.aspx.
- 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. Three more applications are in the works and Insite’s hours were expanded to 24 hours during peak periods.
- NEW: As of March 13, 2017: More than 160 Facility Overdose Response Boxes with naloxone have been distributed to community organizations.
- NEW: As of March 19, 2017, 34,276 no-charge naloxone kits have been distributed through the Take Home Naloxone Program – approximately 22,000 of them in 2016 and more than 6,800 so far in 2017. Kits are now available at 492 locations in B.C., including 58 emergency departments, 10 corrections facilities and 71 First Nations sites serving 97 communities: infograph.venngage.com/publish/2245254a-ccaa-461b-87ec-ec97a4840525
- NEW: In January 2016, the B.C. Health minister signed a Ministerial Order authorizing BC Emergency Health Services to permit trained firefighters (EMA First Responders) and more paramedics in B.C. to administer naloxone to patients who have overdosed. Since that time, BCEHS has helped train over 3,800 firefighters on how to recognize and care for suspected overdose patients by providing bag valve mask ventilation and then administering naloxone.
- Feb. 23, 2017: Guidelines 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
- The RCMP and municipal police departments have used naloxone in nearly 130 overdose reversals since they began carrying naloxone.
- On Jan. 26, 2017, Island Health made no-charge naloxone kits available under the Take Home Naloxone at the Salt Spring Public Health Office and Lady Minto Hospital: www.viha.ca/about_viha/news/news_releases/nr-SSI-naloxone-26jan2017.htm
- The Take-Home Naloxone Program began providing kits at no cost to people likely to witness and response to an overdose: towardtheheart.com/naloxone/
- 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. While non-profit licensed facilities may apply for Facility Overdose Response Boxes, for-profit facilities are expected to purchase their own naloxone and receive training through the pharmacy where they buy their naloxone. Facility Overdose Response Boxes eligibility information: towardtheheart.com/naloxone/forb/
- 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.
- Oct. 13, 2016: Regulations under the Health Professions Act and the Emergency Health Services Act are amended to expand the number of people allowed to administer naloxone outside of a hospital setting.
- 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 27 training sessions throughout the province with more than 1,200 health-care providers on how best to treat patients with opioid addiction – in particular how to safely and appropriately prescribe Suboxone.
- The number of people started on Suboxone or the generic version, buprenorphine/naloxone, increased from an average of about 127 per month in 2015 to a monthly average of 284 people in 2016. The number of people started on methadone remained relatively constant over 2015 and 2016 at about 200 people per month. In 2015, 2,960 British Columbians were on buprenorphine/naloxone, and in 2016, that number increased to 5,576. The number of patients on methadone in 2015 was 16,698, increasing to 17,515 in 2016. Over the past five years, the number of people prescribed these important medications has increased significantly. Since 2011, there has been an increase of almost 7,000 patients on methadone or buprenorphine/naloxone.
- On 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. 7, 2017: The Province announced $5 million in funding for the BCCSU, as well as $1.9 million per 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
- 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
- In early February 2017, the office of the provincial health officer sent a letter to B.C.’s chief medical health officers and the president of the Doctors of BC to encourage physicians to attend the buprenorphine/naloxone prescriber training sessions through the BCCSU.
- 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 authorized to refill Suboxone prescriptions: crnbc.ca/Standards/Announcements/2016/Pages/naloxone_suboxone.aspx
- Sept. 28, 2016: Premier Christy Clark 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
- NEW: Withdrawal Management Guidelines for youth and adults posted: http://www.health.gov.bc.ca/library/publications/year/2017/youth-withdrawal-management-guidelines-final.pdf
- NEW: April 4, 2017: The Province has opened 500 additional substance-use treatment and intervention beds: news.gov.bc.ca/releases/2017HLTH0079-001046
- NEW: April 4, 2017: Ashnola at The Crossing opened: news.gov.bc.ca/releases/2017HLTH0077-001037
- NEW: 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 provide up to 240 people with opioid addiction with intensive residential treatment in 60 additional new beds. Another 200 people will have access to 50 intensive outpatient treatment spaces: https://news.gov.bc.ca/releases/2017HLTH0008-000088
- NEW: Beginning May 1, 2017, Health Emergency Management BC’s Disaster Pyschosocial Program will deploy a new Mobile Response Team of 12 practitioners to areas in B.C. experiencing a high number of overdoses. The team will support frontline workers, emergency responders, volunteers and staff from community-based organizations impacted by the overdose crisis.
- NEW: April 3, 2017: The Province provided the Abbotsford Regional Hospital and Cancer Centre to expand the emergency department and add a dedicated area for mental-health and substance-use care: https://news.gov.bc.ca/releases/2017HLTH0075-001007
- NEW: March 28, 2017: New police and crisis team 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
- 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
- The RCMP and independent municipal police departments are working toward completing training on administration of naloxone - over 7,100 police and civilian staff have been trained so far.
- Police continue to reach out to their communities. On March 6, 2017, Kamloops RCMP hosted a drug information session focused on how to keep teenagers safe from drugs and a criminal lifestyle.
- Significant local enforcement announcements since the previous update include:
- April 7, 2017: The Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit of British Columbia announce sentencing of an individual associated to the Surrey/Delta street level drug conflict: http://www.cfseu.bc.ca/individual-associated-to-the-surreydelta-street-level-drug-conflict-sentenced-to-jail-time/
- April 7, 2017: The Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit of British Columbia announce sentencing for man with an extensive history of drug trafficking and drug offences: http://www.cfseu.bc.ca/man-with-an-extensive-history-of-trafficking-and-drug-offences-has-been-charged/
- April 7, 2017: Alberta man faces criminal charge for trafficking in opiates following a vehicle stop made by a Fraser Valley Traffic member: http://bc.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/ViewPage.action?siteNodeId=2087&languageId=1&contentId=50701
- April 6, 2017: Four-month long investigation led by Ridge Meadows RCMP’s Street Enforcement Unit results in five people being charged with selling fentanyl: http://bc.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/ViewPage.action?siteNodeId=2087&languageId=1&contentId=50688
- April 5, 2017: The Vernon North Okanagan RCMP assisted by the RCMP Clandestine Laboratory Enforcement and Response Team (CLEAR) and Health Canada investigated a residence near Vernon. The seized drugs are in the process of being tested to determine if fentanyl is present: http://vernon.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/ViewPage.action?siteNodeId=2130&languageId=1&contentId=50676
- March 10, 2017: On March 9, 2017, Vernon/North Okanagan RCMP complete investigation into a dial-a-dope drug trafficking group leading to the arrest of a 36 year old man and 35 year old woman for possessing drugs for the purpose of trafficking: http://vernon.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/ViewPage.action?siteNodeId=2130&languageId=1&contentId=50370
- March 9, 2017: In February 2017, the Gangs and Drugs Unit of the Abbotsford Police Department seized drugs suspected to contain Fentanyl and sent them for analysis. The result of analysis has determined that both Fentanyl and Carfentanil were present in the samples: http://www.abbypd.ca//files/File/myAssets/1858/2017-03-09%20Carfentanil%20Discovered%20in%20Drugs%20Seized%20by%20APD.pdf
- March 2, 2017: In February 2017, Metro Vancouver Transit Police save a life with Naloxone: https://transitpolice.ca/news-posts/busy-weekend-includes-first-use-naloxone-kit-issued-transit-police/
- 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 province-wide 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.
Joint Task Force on Overdose Response
- On Feb. 17, 2017, the Province announced an additional $5 million to support the Joint Task Force on Overdose Response and the federal government announced it will provide B.C. with $10 million to support the response: news.gov.bc.ca/releases/2017HLTH0036-000351.
- NEW: This $15 million in new funding will be used to increase access to opioid substitution therapies such as Suboxone, support the establishment of additional supervised consumption services, increase testing capacity at the Provincial Toxicology Laboratory and support the BC Coroners Service overdose death investigation teams. It will also support the establishment of a new mobile response team of 12 qualified professionals – which could include for example crisis response workers, counsellors or social workers – who can be deployed to areas in B.C. experiencing a high number of overdoses to support people working on the frontlines. The funding will also go toward replenishing intranasal naloxone for police agencies and for purchasing drug investigation equipment for RCMP and police, providing additional dedicated funding for fentanyl investigations and enforcement for police, enhancing community engagement and outreach and improving supports for people transitioning from correctional facilities back to the community.
- March 17, 2017: The Province is providing $13 million in funding to health authorities to help ease financial pressures from actions taken to respond to the overdose crisis.
- March 17, 2017: The Ministry of Health released progress report: hwww2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/health/about-bc-s-health-care-system/office-of-the-provincial-health-officer/current-health-topics
- 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
- Nov. 1, 2016: The BC Coroners Service announces a new drug death investigation team: news.gov.bc.ca/releases/2016PSSG0222-002234.
- Sept. 28, 2016: Premier Christy Clark announces $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: April 19, 2017: Abbotsford Police Department and Abbotsford School District host a parent forum to educate parents on the dangers of fentanyl and how to talk about it with their kids etc. http://www.abbypd.ca//files/File/myAssets/1858/2017-04-18%20Youth%20Making%20Positive%20Choices%20-%20Parent%20Forum.pdf
- NEW: April 5, 2017: Dr. Perry Kendall wrote to media outlets across the province encouraging them to run public service announcements.
- NEW: 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.
- On Feb. 24, 2017: Mayors of Canada's largest cities and federal cabinet ministers pledged to work together on the overdose crises.
- Mar. 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, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau visited the frontlines of the overdose crisis in Vancouver: www.vch.ca/about-us/news/prime-minister-visits-od-crisis-frontlines.
- 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
- Dec. 20, 2016: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau met with Provincial Health Officer Dr. Kendall to discuss the opioid crisis.
- Dec. 12, 2016: The federal government introduced Bill 37: news.gov.bc.ca/releases/2016PSSG0248-002742
- 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: Premier Christy Clark 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.
- Nov. 3, 2016: The federal “Good Samaritan Drug Overdose Act” received first reading in the Senate. This Bill would grant immunity from minor drug possession charges for any person calling 911 to help someone who has overdosed.
- 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.
Public Health Emergency
- Jan. 18, 2016: BCCDC 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
- June 9, 2016: More than 80 experts meet 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