Drug-related overdoses and deaths are a very serious concern all 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.
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 Feb. 17, 2016:
Overdose Prevention Sites and B.C.’s Mobile Medical Unit
- NEW: Since Dec. 8, 2016, more than 20 overdose prevention sites throughout 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 has treated 2,158 patients, including 523 patients for overdoses, relieving pressure on local emergency departments and paramedics and providing quick, easy access to opioid substitution therapy such as Suboxone.
- Jan. 16, 2017: Island Health opened Victoria’s third overdose prevention site at 713 Johnson St.
- 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 in high need areas: news.gov.bc.ca/releases/2016HLTH0092-002646
Supervised Consumption Services
- Feb. 17, 2017: Fraser Health submitted an application to Health Canada for supervised consumption services: http://news.fraserhealth.ca/News/February-2017/Fraser-Health-scs-application.aspx
- Jan. 13, 2017: Following consultation with the communities of Kelowna and Kamloops, Interior Health announced its intention to submit applications for mobile supervised consumption services in both communities: www.interiorhealth.ca/AboutUs/MediaCentre/NewsReleases/Documents/Interior%20Health%20to%20apply%20for%20mobile%20supervised%20consumption%20services%20for%20Kamloops%20and%20Kelowna.pdf
- Jan. 3, 2017: Island Health submitted an application for supervised consumption services: www.viha.ca/about_viha/news/news_releases/NR_SCS_Application_3Jan2017.htm
- Dec. 6, 2016: Fraser Health announced proposed locations for supervised consumption services: news.fraserhealth.ca/News/December-2016/Fraser-Health-supervised-consumption.aspx.
- Nov. 25, 2016: Vancouver Coastal Health announced two new outreach programs: www.vch.ca/about-us/news/news-releases/new-programs-to-combat-overdose-crisis
- Oct. 31, 2016: Vancouver Coastal Health submitted applications to Health Canada for two supervised consumption sites: 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 have been expanded to 24 hours during peak periods.
Opioid Substitution Treatment
- NEW: On March 1, 2017: Vancouver Coastal Health opened Connections, a new on-demand addiction treatment clinic in Vancouver Downtown Eastside: www.vch.ca/about-us/news/news-releases/new-on-demand-addiction-treatment-clinic-opens-in-vancouvers-downtown-eastside
- NEW: Since Oct. 1, 2016, the BC Centre on Substance Use (BCCSU) has hosted 20 training sessions throughout the province with more than 1,000 health-care providers on how best to treat patients with opioid addiction – in particular how to safely and appropriately prescribe Suboxone.
- Feb. 7, 2017: The Province announced $5 million in funding for the BCCSU, as well as $1.9 million in ongoing funding. 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, 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).
- Health authorities continue to expand access to opioid substitution:
- Vancouver Coastal has staffed the Medical Mobile Unit with addiction medicine staff who are able to prescribe opioid substitution treatments onsite.
- Vancouver Coastal’s Downtown Community Health Centre now offers opioid substitution treatments.
- Interior Health has expanded opioid substitution treatment clinic hours in Kelowna and Salmon Arm.
- Fraser Health is increasing opioid substitution treatments services in Abbotsford, Maple Ridge and Surrey.
- Island Health is increasing supports in the Johnson Street Community.
- Jan. 6, 2017: Nurse practitioners authorized to refill opioid substitution treatment Suboxone prescriptions in addition to doctors as per the College of Registered Nurses of B.C: crnbc.ca/Standards/Announcements/2016/Pages/naloxone_suboxone.aspx
- Sept. 28, 2016: Premier Christy Clark announced $5 million by the Province to support the establishment of the new 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
- 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, including 20 for youth and 40 for adults, over the next year. Another 200 people will have access to 50 intensive outpatient treatment spaces and access to follow up care for one year: https://news.gov.bc.ca/releases/2017HLTH0008-000088
- The new beds are in addition to government’s commitment to open 500 new beds, with well over 300 new substance-use beds opened in the past three years, and the remaining beds to be open by March, 31 2017.
- NEW: As of March 13, 2017: More than 160 Facility Overdose Response Boxes with naloxone have been distributed to community organizations where overdoses are likely to occur, including supportive housing, subsidized housing, shelters and drop-in centres.
- NEW: As of March 5, 2017, 32,858 no-charge naloxone kits have been distributed through the Take Home Naloxone Program – almost 22,000 of them in 2016 and 5,500 so far in 2017. Kits are now available at 476 locations in B.C., including 58 emergency departments,10 corrections facilities and 69 First Nations sites serving 96 communities: infograph.venngage.com/publish/2245254a-ccaa-461b-87ec-ec97a4840525
- NEW: Feb. 23. 2017: Guidelines were distributed to providers of supportive housing and homeless shelters to help guide them in the steps they can take to reduce overdose fatalities in their facilities: 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 100 overdose reversals since the beginning of the program.
- On Jan. 26, 2017, Island Health began making 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 respond to an overdose. Kits are also available at no charge to people at risk of an opioid 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
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
- NEW: The RCMP and independent municipal police departments are working towards completing training on administration of naloxone – nearly 7,000 police and civilian staff have been trained so far.
- NEW: 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.
- NEW: Significant local enforcement announcements since the previous update include:
- New Westminster Police Department seize $25,000 worth of street drugs and arrest three people: www.nwpolice.org/blog/2017/03/14/three-people-arrested-25000-drugs-seized/
- Kelowna RCMP seize illegal drugs from driver passed out behind the wheel bc.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/ViewPage.action?siteNodeId=2087&languageId=1&contentId=50269
- RCMP Federal Clandestine Laboratory Enforcement Response Team (CLEAR) shuts down sophisticated drug lab operating near Rock Creek: bc.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/ViewPage.action?siteNodeId=2087&languageId=1&contentId=50294
- Comox Valley RCMP Drug Section targets trafficking: comoxvalley.bc.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/ViewPage.action?siteNodeId=2087&languageId=1&contentId=50246
- Search warrant yields drugs and cash for Kelowna RCMP: bc.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/ViewPage.action?siteNodeId=2087&languageId=1&contentId=50219
- Earlier this year the RCMP began training RCMP narcotics profile dog teams to detect fentanyl. As of Feb. 20, 15 dog teams in British Columbia have received the training, and it expected that a total of 23-24 dog teams will be trained by Feb. 26. It is expected that all 139 RCMP narcotics profile dog teams across Canada will be trained by mid-July. For more information on the training, including a demonstration video you can visit: www.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/en/news/2017/31/rcmp-dogs-join-battle-fentanyl
- On Feb. 8, 2017, lab results from Health Canada confirm carfentanil is in Nanaimo. This powder was seized by investigators as part of an ongoing investigation following the execution of a search warrant.
- 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.
Joint Task Force on Overdose Response
- NEW: 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: https://news.gov.bc.ca/14264
- NEW: March 17, 2017: The Ministry of Health released its fourth overdose response progress report: http://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/health/about-bc-s-health-care-system/office-of-the-provincial-health-officer/current-health-topics
- NEW: Feb. 22, 2017: The Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research is working to support B.C.’s Joint Task Force on Overdose Prevention: www.msfhr.org/sites/default/files/RFP_Rapid_Review_of_Jurisdictional_Responses_to_Opioid_Overdose.pdf
- Feb. 17, 2017: Minister Lake announced $5 million to support the ongoing work of the Joint Task Force on Overdose Response: news.gov.bc.ca/releases/2017HLTH0036-000351
- 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: 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
- On Jan. 23, 2017, Fraser Health launched an updated web resource for people seeking support for mental health and/or substance use concerns: 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. (CFSEU-BC), 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 are available: www.healthlinkbc.ca/substance-use/parenting-articles
- Four teaching modules to support teachers educating children about drugs are available: www.uvic.ca/research/centres/carbc/publications/helping-schools/index.php
- Aug. 31, 2016: Government launches 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: On Feb. 24, 2017: Mayors of Canada's largest cities and federal cabinet ministers pledged to work together on the overdose crises.
- NEW: 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.
- 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.
- NEW: 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, which would simplify the application process for supervised consumption services, and the new Canadian drug and substance use strategy that incorporates many actions B.C. has advocated for, including regulations for pill presses: 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