As part of Budget 2017, government is investing $5 million to support the ongoing work of the Joint Task Force on Overdose Response.
This complements federal Health Minister Jane Philpott’s announcement today that the Government of Canada is allocating $65 million over five years to support the federal response to the opioid crisis, as well as $10 million in urgent support specifically for British Columbia to help address the overwhelming toll the crisis is taking in this province.
“We appreciate the efforts by our federal counterparts on this file – including expediting Bill C-37, regulating precursors to fentanyl, improving border controls and negotiating an agreement with China to stem the flow of illegal fentanyl into Canada. The new federal funding for a national strategy shows they continue to take this issue seriously,” said Health Minister Terry Lake. “We have been fighting hard in B.C. to save lives from the opioid epidemic sweeping our province, and the new federal funding announced today will provide much-needed help on this front.”
While the exact allocation of the funds is still being determined, it will help support strategies identified by the task force. Priority areas include better mental and emotional support for people who work on the front lines; expanded rapid access to opioid substitution treatment and the continuum of care; expanded and targeted law-enforcement strategies for fentanyl and carfentanil; supervised consumption services; continued expansion of access to naloxone; enhanced laboratory capacity and further support for the BC Coroners Service.
“I know the joint task force and everyone working with them, including police and first responders, are working tirelessly to address these issues, and I commend them for their efforts,” said Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General Mike Morris. “The new federal investment underscores that Canadians are in this together, and while B.C. has been on the frontlines, we welcome the federal government playing a greater role as we move deeper into our strategies to bring an end to this crisis.”
The Ministry of Health and health authorities continue to expand access to opioid substitution treatment. The number of people started on suboxone or the generic version, buprenorphine/ naloxone, increased from an average of about 127 per month in 2015 to a monthly average of 284 people in 2016. The number of people started on methadone remained relatively constant over 2015 and 2016 at about 200 people per month. In 2015, 2,960 British Columbians were on buprenorphine/naloxone, and in 2016, that number increased to 5,576. The number of patients on methadone in 2015 was 16,698, increasing to 17,515 in 2016. Over the past five years, the number of people prescribed these important medications has increased significantly. Since 2011, there has been an increase of almost 7,000 patients on methadone or buprenorphine/ naloxone.
The provincial and federal funding announced today supports British Columbia’s response to the overdose crisis. Additional new items since the last provincial update on Jan. 18, 2017 include:
- On Feb. 17, 2017, Fraser Health submitted an application to Health Canada for supervised consumption services in Surrey: http://news.fraserhealth.ca/
- Since Dec. 8, 2016, 20 overdose prevention sites across the province have had more than 8,000 visits and reversed 150 overdoses, with zero deaths.
- Since Dec. 13, 2016, the Province’s Mobile Medical Unit stationed in the Downtown Eastside has treated more than 1,100 patients and provided emergency medical care for more than 370 overdose patients, relieving pressure on local emergency departments and paramedics.
- 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,” a handbook to help people learn about available medications: http://www.uvic.ca/research/centres/carbc/assets/docs/ost-patient.pdf
- On Feb. 7, 2017, Lake announced $5 million in additional funding for the BC Centre on Substance Use, as well as $1.9 million in ongoing funding to support the centre’s operations. 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: http://www2.gov.bc.ca/assets/gov/health/practitioner-pro/bc-guidelines/bc_oud_guidelines.pdf
- On Feb. 2, 2017, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau visited the frontlines of the overdose crisis in Vancouver and spoke with staff at PHS Community Services Society: http://www.vch.ca/about-us/news/prime-minister-visits-od-crisis-frontlines.
- Police continue to conduct investigations on fentanyl and other illicit drugs. Recent progress includes:
- 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 http://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.
- RCMP, Central Saanich and Saanich Police announced a year-long investigation of a Saanich Peninsula trafficking ring that resulted in significant drug seizures and $1 million in cash.
- Surrey RCMP arrested three individuals and seized thousands of dosages of street level drugs, including suspected fentanyl, and approx. $16,000 in cash following a two-month investigation.
- Cranbrook RCMP seized a substantial amount of cocaine, heroin, marijuana and cash.
- Charges were approved for two individuals after CFSEU-BC’s Uniform Gang Enforcement Team seized restricted firearm and drug paraphernalia.
- A New Westminster alleged drug trafficker was charged following a multi-agency investigation.
- Kelowna RCMP raided a drug house and seized suspected cocaine, heroin, marijuana, methamphetamine and over 300 various illicit pills.
- Kelowna RCMP’s Street Enforcement Unit and Police Dog Services seized cocaine, hash and $4,000 in cash from a motel in Lake Country.
- Two men are in custody after Port Hardy RCMP seized firearms, drugs and cash.
- Oceanside RCMP raided a drug house and seized significant amount of cocaine, heroin, cash and firearms.
- On Feb. 1, 2017, the province confirmed through laboratory testing conducted by LifeLabs that carfentanil is present in the illegal drug supply in the Lower Mainland and being ingested. LifeLabs is sharing summaries of its testing results with the Ministry of Health on a weekly basis: https://news.gov.bc.ca/releases/2017HLTH0020-000224
- 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 BC Centre on Substance Use. Since Oct. 1, 2016 the centre has hosted six training events with more than 550 health-care providers on how to treat patients who are addicted to opioids with buprenorphine/naloxone.
- As of Jan. 24, 2017, 30,148 no-charge naloxone kits have been distributed. Take-home naloxone kits are now available at 458 locations in B.C., including 58 emergency departments, 10 corrections facilities and 68 First Nations sites serving 96 communities: https://infograph.venngage.com/publish/2245254a-ccaa-461b-87ec-ec97a4840525
- On Jan. 26, 2017, Island Health distributed take-home naloxone kits to the Salt Spring Public Health Office and Lady Minto Hospital: http://www.viha.ca/about_viha/news/news_releases/nr-SSI-naloxone-26jan2017.htm
- On Jan. 23, 2017, Fraser Health launched an updated web resource for people seeking support for mental health and/or substance use concerns: http://news.fraserhealth.ca/News/January-2017/Mental-health-and-substance-use-resources.aspx
- Jan. 21-22, 2017, Fraser Health and partners hosted 80 local developers who put their minds together to find potential solutions to help address health-care challenges, including the overdose crisis: http://news.fraserhealth.ca/News/January-2017/Fraser-Health-Hackathon-delivers-solutions-to-addr.aspx
To learn more about how to prevent an overdose, please visit: http://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/overdose
To learn more about additional government actions to reduce overdoses, please visit: https://news.gov.bc.ca/factsheets/actions-to-prevent-overdoses-in-bc
To learn more about BC Coroners Service statistics on illicit drug overdose deaths, please visit: www2.gov.bc.ca/assets/gov/public-safety-and-emergency-services/death-investigation/statistical/illicit-drug.pdf
To learn more about the BC Coroners Service statistics on fentanyl-detected illicit drug overdose deaths, please visit: www2.gov.bc.ca/assets/gov/public-safety-and-emergency-services/death-investigation/statistical/fentanyl-detected-overdose.pdf