British Columbia continues to take action to reduce overdose deaths.
Public Safety Minister Mike Morris and Health Minister Terry Lake today unveiled a new part of a public awareness campaign, announced the de-scheduling of naloxone, and provided an update of the actions to-date on the provincial overdose response. Chief coroner Lisa Lapointe also provided an update on the latest statistics on illicit drug deaths.
“Illicit drug overdoses have affected far too many of B.C.’s families,” said Lake. “Tackling this problem requires a massive effort, and the dedication I’m seeing from everyone working on this is incredibly moving. No one wants more families to suffer and we’re working together as quickly as we can to prevent future tragedies.”
The province today released the first in a series of video public service announcements, which will appear in a range of media in the coming weeks. The videos are part of a public awareness campaign, which launched Aug. 31, 2016, and also includes a social media advertising campaign and a website at: http://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/overdose
The new video features Leslie McBain, who founded Moms Stop the Harm after losing her son Jordan to an overdose.
“It can happen to anyone’s child,” said McBain. “Education and awareness are at present the best tools we have for reducing drug harms including death.”
On Sept. 20, 2016, the Ministry of Health approved the College of Pharmacists of B.C. request to amend to the BC Drug Schedules Regulation to deregulate and unschedule emergency use naloxone. This change allows the life-saving overdose treatment to be sold at locations beyond pharmacies, meaning health care sites, treatment centres and community agencies can carry and sell naloxone. B.C. is the first province in the country to deregulate naloxone.
“What we are facing is not just a health problem or a lower mainland concern – it is happening throughout British Columbia, and no one is immune,” said Morris. “People with long histories of drug use are overdosing as are people trying drugs for the very first time. Keeping our communities and British Columbians safe continues to be our top priority in the fight against illicit opioids.”
The latest statistics from the BC Coroners Service show that the number of illicit drug deaths continued to drop slightly in August, but remains increased from previous years.
“It is heartening to see the efforts being made across the province to assist those suffering harm from illicit drug use,”said chief coroner Lisa Lapointe. “This kind of thoughtful, collaborative and non-judgemental approach will be key to resolving this crisis and helping those struggling with addictions.”
On July 27, 2016, Premier Christy Clark announced a newly formed Joint Task Force on Overdose Response headed by provincial health officer Dr. Perry Kendall and Clayton Pecknold, director of police services. In April 2016, Dr. Kendall declared British Columbia’s overdose situation a public health emergency. B.C. is the only province in Canada to take this action.
“While the numbers appear to have started going in the right direction, there are still too many people succumbing to overdoses. The weekly reports from the BC Centre for Disease Control – which provide current overdose data from 911 calls, paramedics and emergency departments – are helping target our efforts across the province,” said Dr. Kendall.
“Policing in B.C. is integrated. They work with the federal agencies, with provincial health organizations and within their own communities – not just on enforcement but also on prevention and harm reduction initiatives,” said Pecknold. “Police and health officials share the same goal to preserve life. As part of the task force we will build on work aimed at long term strategies to address this ongoing crisis.”
Other recent government actions to prevent drug overdose deaths in B.C. include:
- Development of information and resources for parents, youth and people who work with youth is underway under the Community Action Initiative using previous funding received from the province through Provincial Health Services Authority: http://www.communityactioninitiative.ca/
- The Take Home Naloxone program has been significantly expanded, with 13,746 no-charge naloxone kits dispensed, and reports of 2,149 kits used to reverse opioid overdoses. No-charge kits are now available in 297 sites throughout British Columbia, including most emergency departments, three provincial correctional facilities, and one federal correctional facility. The Province is funding expansion of kits to all remaining emergency rooms, public health units and correctional facilities in B.C.
- All ambulance crews and 46 fire departments are now carrying naloxone.
- Discussions continue with the federal government on restricting equipment used to manufacture illicit drugs, and expanding efforts to prevent illegally imported fentanyl.
These are some of the actions the province has taken since the Task Force was announced.
For a comprehensive list of what the Province is doing to prevent overdoses, please visit: https://news.gov.bc.ca/factsheets/actions-to-prevent-overdoses-in-british-columbia
To ensure that people struggling with substance use have access to treatment, more than 220 beds have been opened in the past two years under the Province’s commitment to 500 new substance use beds. This goal will be reached in 2017. Health authorities will continue to open the remaining beds in the coming months.
About how to prevent and respond to an overdose, please visit: www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/overdose
For the BC Coroner’s Service’s latest statistics on fentanyl-detected illicit overdose deaths, please visit: http://www2.gov.bc.ca/assets/gov/public-safety-and-emergency-services/death-investigation/statistical/fentanyl-detected-overdose.pdf
To watch the video featuring Leslie McBain from Moms Stop the Harm, please visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pGv_jFhHnJQ&feature=youtu.be
For a progress update on B.C.’s Public Health Emergency, please visit: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/assets/gov/health/about-bc-s-health-care-system/office-of-the-provincial-health-officer/overdose-response-progress-update-sept2016.pdf
To learn more about recent government actions to prevent drug overdose deaths, please visit: https://news.gov.bc.ca/factsheets/actions-to-prevent-overdoses-in-british-columbia
For the Coroners Service latest statistics on illicit drug overdose deaths in B.C., please visit: http://www2.gov.bc.ca/assets/gov/public-safety-and-emergency-services/death-investigation/statistical/illicit-drug.pdf
To learn more about the Joint Task Force on Overdose Response, please visit: https://news.gov.bc.ca/releases/2016PREM0082-001361
To learn more about Moms Stop the Harm, please visit: http://www.momsstoptheharm.com/