Updated statistics released today from the BC Coroners Service show the number of illicit drug overdose deaths remained relatively steady throughout September.
Government continues to take actions on many fronts to prevent and respond to overdoses in B.C.
Since September 2016, when Premier Christy Clark announced $5 million to fund strategies identified under the Joint Task Force on Overdose Prevention, as well as a further $5 million to establish the BC Centre on Substance Use, considerable work has taken place. This includes:
- On Oct. 13, 2016, regulations under the Health Professions Act and the Emergency Health Services Act were amended to enable all healthcare professionals, first responders (e.g. police, firefighters), social workers and citizens to administer naloxone outside of a hospital setting. This was done to prevent further loss of life from opioid overdose, to the extent possible, by enabling anyone to administer naloxone to someone appearing to be suffering from an opioid overdose.
The amendment is also extended to all citizens, which allows people employed in places where overdoses are more likely to happen but where not a lot of health care workers or emergency responders are regularly employed, such as shelters and certain mental health and substance use centres.
- On Oct. 14, 2016, Health Minister Terry Lake signed a letter providing the required support for Vancouver Coastal Health to submit applications to Health Canada for two additional supervised consumption services. Vancouver Coastal Health continues its work on the applications to meet the extensive requirements under the federal Respect for Communities Act.
- Next week, Vancouver Coastal Health is launching a new Harm Reduction, Outreach and Overdose Prevention Team in partnership with the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users (VANDU). The team will operate daily between 10 a.m. and 10 p.m. to provide mobile outreach in the high-need areas of Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, including access to harm reduction supplies, overdose prevention and connections to care.
- A number of police detachments and departments have held community safety forums and reached out to parents and youth. For instance, the Delta Police Department, along with the school district and the Corporation of Delta, co-hosted two well attended forums on fentanyl. The Surrey RCMP and Surrey school district are organizing a forum to provide parents, students and residents with information about the dangers of fentanyl and address other issues for youth. As part of the $5 million in funding to support strategies identified by the Joint Task Force, work is also underway to develop a tool kit to assist community partners with organizing and hosting community forums. The tool kits will include resources to help foster discussion and engagement among community stakeholders on overdose prevention.
- Intranasal naloxone is being distributed to RCMP detachments and some municipal police departments, as part of the $5 million to support the work of the joint task force. Following Health Canada’s approval of the sale of intranasal naloxone in Canada on Oct. 3, 2016, both intranasal and injectable naloxone is now available for purchase without a prescription in British Columbia.
- Since Oct. 11, 2016, the Take Home Naloxone program has been further expanded, with the following results:
- An additional 997 Take Home Naloxone kits were distributed (14,743 total)
- An additional 19 locations in B.C. are dispensing Take Home Naloxone kits (316 total); and
- An additional 222 people were trained on naloxone administration (11,851 total).
- On Oct. 6, 2016, deputy provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and chief coroner Lisa Lapointe presented on B.C.’s response to the overdose crisis to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Health. They urged the federal government to either repeal or amend Bill C-2, the “Respect for Communities Act,” so that it does not stand in the way of the establishing additional supervised consumption services in British Columbia. They also called for the federal regulation of drug manufacturing equipment like pill presses.
- B.C. will also participate and share our strategies to respond to the overdose crisis at the upcoming National Opioid Summit hosted by federal Health Minister Jane Philpott, Nov. 18-19, 2016.
- Following the announcement of $5 million in government funding, work is also underway on additional priority areas identified by the Joint Task Force. This includes:
- equipment and supplies for the RCMP Clandestine Laboratory Enforcement and Response Team to support B.C.’s police with drug testing;
- enhanced enforcement activities targeted at illicit fentanyl traffickers;
- enhanced file investigation for overdose deaths by the BC Coroners Service;
- renovating and equipping new spaces or purchasing mobile units to expand supervised consumption services;
- purchasing drug identification equipment for B.C.’s Provincial Toxicology Centre at the BC Centre for Disease Control; and
- enhanced surveillance work on overdoses by health authorities and the BCCDC.
To learn more about additional government actions to reduce overdoses, please visit:
To learn more about BC Coroners Service statistics on illicit drug overdose deaths, please visit:
To learn more about BC Coroners Service statistics on fentanyl-detected illicit drug overdose deaths, please visit:
To learn more about the Joint Task Force on Overdose Response, please visit: