Judy Darcy, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, has issued the following statement on International Overdose Awareness Day:
“Today marks International Overdose Awareness Day, and we honour and remember those we have lost to this terrible crisis. Last year, we lost 1,450 people here in B.C., and by the end of this day three or four more British Columbians will die from a drug overdose as a result of a poisoned and unpredictable illegal drug supply.
“This means that we are losing more people from accidental overdoses than from suicides, car accidents and homicides combined. These are our brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, co-workers and friends, and the families and communities they leave behind are filled with tremendous grief and heartbreak.
“Over the last year, I have met with people who have suffered unimaginable heartbreak. They have shared their experiences with me. They talked about their profound loss and, remarkably, they talked about their commitment to making the system better. That means closing the gaps, breaking the silos and opening the doors so that anyone who needs care and support can receive it immediately. There is a lot to be done, and together with the support of the B.C. Green Party caucus, our government is committed to turning the tide on this epidemic of addiction and overdose.
“We also know that addiction affects everyone differently. There is no single solution or approach that will work for every person. We have been ramping up access to treatment and recovery options, including increasing the number of prescribers by 36% — an increase that has resulted in almost double the number of people receiving opioid substitution therapy and injectable opioid substitution therapy. We have opened more overdose prevention and supervised consumption sites. With our partners, we have distributed more than 114,000 naloxone kits, so that people can respond if called upon. We are establishing therapeutic recovery communities and other dedicated resources for youth.
“Admittedly, too many people are still dying, too many are using alone and, too often, shame and stigma are keeping people isolated and vulnerable. At the same time, we are seeing some success, because we know more options are available with more opportunities for people to create their own unique pathway to hope and healing. Every person we can move onto a treatment program removes them from the unpredictability and toxic illegal drug supply currently available on our streets.
“As B.C.’s first Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, I hear every day from British Columbians who are seized with both urgency and compassion, and this has driven our response as a province.
“Thousands of lives have been saved by frontline workers, first responders, peers and volunteers who continue to demonstrate incredible resilience and dedication. We are also seeing more people living with addiction come forward in spite of fear and stigma to seek help for themselves and others. There is a shift happening, and many of us are having courageous conversations that open the door to treatment and recovery.
“With our unprecedented community partnerships and the open-heartedness of British Columbians, our progress gives me hope. While we can’t do this alone, and we know it won’t be easy, I know we can all do our part to educate ourselves and treat this complex issue with the compassion and empathy it truly deserves.”