To bolster the efforts underway to prevent illicit drug overdoses and related deaths, Premier Christy Clark announced that the Province is providing $10 million to support a British Columbia addiction treatment research and training centre and to fund strategies identified under the Joint Task Force on Overdose Prevention.
“Too many families have lost someone they love to addiction or overdose,” Premier Clark said. “We’re fortunate to be home to some of Canada’s leading addiction and recovery experts doing incredible work. This funding will help them continue to identify and develop leading and innovative practices, and prevent more families from enduring the worst possible news.”
Of this investment, $5 million will support the establishment of the new British Columbia Centre on Substance Use (BCCSU) and address the overdose crisis by focusing on addiction research, health provider education and clinical care guidance. The BCCSU will establish best practices for the province’s addiction treatment system and link together health authorities, academic institutions, care providers and service agencies, to position B.C. as a leader in delivering evidenced-based addiction treatment.
“B.C. is at the forefront in efforts to tackle the overdose crisis faced by jurisdictions across North America. We know we need to take action on many fronts, from public awareness and education, to treatment and harm reduction, to public safety and policing,” said Health Minister Terry Lake. “Putting in place the best evidence-based treatment to help people recover from substance-use issues is, of course, integral to addressing the problem, and the B.C. Centre on Substance Use will play a crucial role.”
In the face of the province’s overdose crisis, among the first tasks of the BCCSU is to implement a provincial guideline for the treatment of opioid addiction this fall. The creation of the BCCSU is the culmination of work that has been ongoing since 2014, and will formally establish and rapidly expand activities geared toward improvement in opioid addiction care and education of health care practitioners. The BCCSU will also work closely with the recovery community to develop learning opportunities, linkages and appropriate referral mechanisms.
“This investment to create the B.C. Centre on Substance Use will save lives and advance overall public health by improving the quality of addictions care, and the scale at which we are able to provide it. By describing best practices and building linkages between treatment and recovery systems, it will help to address many of the health and social challenges associated with untreated addiction facing the health care system in B.C.,” said Dr. Evan Wood, interim director of the BCCSU, professor of medicine at the University of British Columbia and medical director of addiction services at Vancouver Coastal Health and Providence Health Care.
A further $5 million will be invested in additional priority areas identified by the task force, including issuing naloxone and naloxone training to police and RCMP for administering to the public in the event of overdose and for officer safety in case of accidental exposure. Other key items to receive funding are:
- a community outreach strategy by police and health authorities, including community forums to increase awareness of fentanyl dangers;
- 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 B.C. Coroner’s 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.
“The prevalence of fentanyl and other harmful opioids has increased the exposure of police officers to these substances. In addition to enforcing the law and pursuing drug dealers and traffickers, it’s critical that they are trained to assist individuals who are in danger and also have the ability to protect themselves. This additional support from the task force will enable the expansion of outreach strategies, drug testing and overall enforcement targeted at dealers,” said Solicitor General and Public Safety Minister Mike Morris.
On July 27, 2016, Premier Clark announced a new Joint Task Force on Overdose Prevention and Response. Headed by provincial health officer Dr. Perry Kendall and director of police services Clayton Pecknold, the task force is providing expert leadership and advice to government on actions to strengthen the provincial response.
Since the task force was announced, many actions have taken place, including the government launch of the first phase of a provincial overdose awareness campaign and website at gov.bc.ca/overdose to increase awareness on how to prevent, identify and respond to overdoses, and the BCCDC’s significant expansion of the Take Home Naloxone program. The Province has also opened more than 220 new addiction treatment beds as part of the commitment to add 500 beds by 2017.
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 a progress update on B.C.’s response to the opioid overdose 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
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
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