The Province continues to enhance B.C.'s response to the toxic drug crisis, investing $430 million through Budget 2022 over the next three years to end the toxic drug crisis.
Visit the BC Centre for Disease Control's (BCCDC) website for more data on the drug poisoning response:
Data on prescribed safe supply is available from the BCCDC:
Preventing drug poisoning
B.C. is the first province in Canada to receive a three-year exemption from the federal government to remove criminal penalties for people who possess small amounts of illicit drugs for personal use. Decriminalization of people who use drugs will reduce the fear and shame that keeps people silent and leads so many to hide their drug use and avoid treatment and support. Reducing the stigma of drug use is a vital part of B.C.’s work to build a comprehensive system of mental health and substance use care. Decriminalization will become effective Jan. 31, 2023, and the Province will work with a broad cross-section of partners to make sure police are trained and health authorities are prepared for this change.
Access to prescribed safer supply, a Canadian first
B.C. is the first province in Canada to offer prescribed safe supply.
People have been accessing prescribed safe supply since March 2020, when the Province introduced the first phase of the program. From March 2020 to December 2021, more than 12,000 people were dispensed prescribed safer supply through Risk Mitigation Guidance and, of those, more than 7,000 (58%) were prescribed an opioid.
The second phase of prescribed safer supply is being implemented in health authorities and federally funded SAFER programs settings.
Government is investing $22.6 million over the next three years to support health authorities in implementing prescribed safer supply. Funding will support expansion of existing and creation of new programs, increasing staffing capacity through hiring new full-time-equivalent positions, and robust monitoring and evaluation of this policy.
Overdose prevention and supervised consumption services
B.C. is expanding access to overdose prevention services that offer observed inhalation services in communities hardest hit by the drug-poisoning crisis. From January 2017 until June 2022, there were more than 3.1 million visits, more than 22,190 overdoses responded to and survived, and zero deaths. The number of sites has significantly increased – from one site in 2016 to 42, including 13 sites offering inhalation services. In June 2022, there were 19,283 visits to inhalation overdose prevention and supervised consumption services.
The free app helps save lives by automatically connecting people who use drugs to first responders if the user becomes unresponsive. From May 2020 until the end of May 2022, the app has been used more than 104,783 times by 9,268 app users. To date, no drug-poisoning deaths have been reported through the app. Lifeguard now provides drug alerts.
Take-home naloxone kits
As of June 2022, more than 1.43 million kits have been shipped and more than 136,629 have been reported as used to reverse a drug poisoning. The kits are available at more than 2,026 locations, including 806 community pharmacies in B.C.
The Facility Overdose Response Box (FORB) program provides community organizations with naloxone, supplies and training so staff can recognize and respond to drug poisonings. There are 749 registered sites in the province and 3,027 drug-poisoning reversals reported from FORB sites as of June 2022.
Enhancing treatment and recovery
New beds for addictions and recovery care
The B.C. government has prioritized making new treatment and recovery beds available in 2021 to those who need them. This includes opening 10 specialized addiction treatment beds at Phoenix Society in Surrey, 105 beds at Red Fish Healing Centre for Mental Health and Addiction, and 105 new publicly funded beds for adults in 14 organizations in B.C.
Budget 2022 continues with prior investments that result in $144.5 million over the fiscal plan to continue the Province’s historic investment in the development of a full-spectrum system of substance-use treatment and recovery services.
This includes the implementation of 65 new and/or enhancement initiatives resulting in approximately 195 net new withdrawal management, transition and treatment and recovery beds over three years.
As of March 2022, there were 3,261 publicly funded adult and youth community substance-use beds. Data on beds is updated four times annually.
Expanded scope of nursing practice, a Canadian first
To increase the number of clinicians who can prescribe medications for opioid-use disorder – particularly in rural and remote parts of the province – registered nurses (RNs) and registered psychiatric nurses (RPNs) can now complete training to begin prescribing opioid agonist treatment. In November 2021, the British Columbia Centre on Substance Use (BCCSU) launched education and training to enable RN/RPN prescribers to offer methadone and slow-release-oral-morphine (Kadian), in a phased approach, in addition to existing education and training focused on buprenorphine/naloxone.
As of July 2022, 183 RNs and RPNs from all health authorities have enrolled and 90 have fully completed their training. From these fully trained nurses, 64 have completed the buprenorphine/naloxone stream and 26 have completed the new opioid agonist treatment stream (which includes training for buprenorphine/naloxone prescribing and limited scope prescribing of methadone and Kadian). Work is underway to train as many as 450 new nurse prescribers by March 2023. Nurse prescribing for opioid use disorder is being implemented in collaboration with First Nations communities, and training is also underway.
Expanded opioid agonist treatment
In June 2022, 24,742 people were dispensed opioid agonist treatment (OAT). The number of clinicians prescribing any form of OAT increased from 773 in June 2017 to 1,799 in June 2022. Access has also been significantly expanded through Rapid Access to Addictions Care Clinics in all health regions, so more people can access the care they need, where and when they need it.
More flexible treatment options
More options for medication-assisted treatment are available than ever before – including injectable opioid agonist treatment (iOAT) and low-barrier pharmaceutical alternatives like tablet iOAT (TiOAT) programs in most health authorities in B.C. In November 2019, government approved the expansion of TiOAT in every health authority in the province. Currently, iOAT is available in high-need communities as determined by overdose surveillance data, including Surrey, Abbotsford, Kelowna, Victoria and multiple Vancouver locations. In December 2020, the Province approved plans for Northern Health’s first integrated iOAT and TiOAT program in Prince George. The ministries and health authorities are continuing to work to expand programs where needed.
Improving the substance-use system of care
New teams to keep people connected to services and treatment
Sixteen substance-use teams throughout the province help people stay connected to health-care services, treatment and recovery. Services are tailored to each community, provided by a range of professionals including nurses, counsellors, social workers and peers. Teams support adults, including young adults, in communities throughout B.C., including Vancouver, Abbotsford, Kelowna, Prince George and Nanaimo.
24/7 support for people living with serious mental-health challenges
People living with severe mental-health challenges have access to 29 Assertive Community Treatment teams throughout B.C. that provide 24/7 supports. Teams are located in every health authority in B.C, including in Kelowna, Kamloops, Vancouver, Surrey, Victoria, Nanaimo and Prince George. Services include crisis assessment and intervention, psychiatric or psychological treatment, medication management and more.
24/7 helpline for prescribers and pharmacists
Provides live, in-the-moment support to doctors, pharmacists, registered nurses, registered psychiatric nurses, midwives and nurse practitioners as they treat patients with opioid-use disorder and consider safe prescription alternatives to the toxic drug supply.
Enhancing mental-health crisis lines
Planned enhancements to crisis line services include additional responders to increase crisis-line capacity to answer calls, improved recruitment and retention strategies, upgraded and improved technology, and standardized training for call responders.
Community Crisis Innovation Fund
Supports community-driven, innovative strategies and actions that draw on the expertise of local service providers and people with lived experience.
Grants totalling more than $1.5 million have been committed to escalate the drug-poisoning response in rural, remote, and Indigenous communities. The grants will also provide supports, including groups for grief and loss, family services and networks for people and families affected by the drug-poisoning crisis.
Community action teams (CAT)
$2.75 million supports these teams in B.C. communities. The 36 CATs in high-priority communities throughout the province help communities form partnerships and strategies to address the drug-poisoning emergency at a local level.
People with lived/living experience
People with lived and living experience are supported by investments to be involved in building a provincewide network of people who use drugs to share that experience and expertise, as well as funding for peer and family support networks. Moms Stop the Harm - B.C. is leading Stronger Together, a provincial family support and development project.
First Nation-run treatment and healing centres
Eight First Nations treatment and healing centres operate throughout B.C., and two new facilities are being planned – one in the Vancouver Coastal region and the other in the Fraser Salish region.
These facilities are supported by $20 million from the Government of B.C., matched by $20 million from each the federal government and the First Nations Health Authority (FNHA), to support the renovation and replacement of First Nation-run treatment centres throughout B.C.
$38 million was provided by the B.C. government to the FNHA to support the design and expansion of land-based and culturally safe treatment services. As part of this initiative, the FNHA has provided funding to First Nations to increase the number of treatment options available to First Nations clients with a focus on land-based, family-based or group-based treatment services.
The Province and the FNHA committed $10 million each to support a new partnership for mental health and wellness.
Provincial drug-poisoning emergency response for First Nations communities
$24 million over three years will support the FNHA with the drug-poisoning emergency response, with an increased focus on addressing the impact of the emergency on First Nations people.
Métis-led mental health and wellness initiatives
$1.13 million has been provided to the Métis Nation BC to support Métis-led mental health and wellness initiatives, including the development of a cultural safety and wellness curriculum and a harm-reduction and stigma-reduction campaign.
Extension of the Indigenous-led program for alcohol treatment and recovery in Port Hardy.