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Mental Health and Addictions

Minister’s statement on illicit drug toxicity deaths report

Media Contacts

Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions

Communications
250 213-7049

Media Contacts

Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions

Communications
250 213-7049

Backgrounders

Overdose response actions

Enhancing treatment and recovery:

Doubling the number of youth treatment beds
$36 million until 2023 for 123 new substance use treatment and withdrawal management beds for youth (ages 12-24). In August 2020, 20 new youth beds were also added in Chilliwack at the Traverse facility.

New beds for addictions and recovery care
$13.4 million for 50-70 new treatment and recovery beds.

Better, safer care in supportive recovery
Increased mandatory requirements, including expanded training for staff, and higher per-diem rates for people on income assistance in supportive recovery.

Service maintenance
$2.5 million will help existing residential treatment and recovery service providers whose budgets have been strained by the COVID-19 pandemic, making sure they can continue delivering quality care for those who need it.

Expanded, opioid agonist treatment (OAT)
The number of patients dispensed OAT has grown to more than 23,000, and the number of clinicians prescribing any form of opioid agonist treatment in a given month increased from 773 in June 2017 to 1,558 in July 2020. Access has been significantly expanded through Rapid Access to Addictions Care Clinics in all health regions, so more people can access the care they need, where and when they need it.

More flexible treatment options
More options than ever before are available, including injectable opioid agonist treatment (iOAT), and low-barrier pharmaceutical alternatives (TiOAT) programs in most health authorities in the province. In 2019-20, iOAT capacity increased by more than 40%. In November 2019, government approved the expansion of TiOAT into every health authority in the province.

Improving the substance use system of care:

New substance use teams to keep people connected to services and treatment
Seven new and nine expanded substance use teams throughout the province to help people stay connected to health-care services, treatment and recovery.

Emergency room connections
Improving access to evidence-informed care, including access to OAT and connecting people to community supports.

Emergency health services pilot project
Through a partnership with BC Emergency Health Services, more people who are not already connected to care are being provided with referrals and ongoing support if they decline transport to hospital following an overdose.

Significant expansion of mental health and addictions counselling
This expansion is being achieved through Community Counselling grants.

Enhancing rapid access to addictions medicine
Increasing the number of sessions with physicians and nurse practitioners to add more prescribing capacity.

Responding to an even more toxic drug supply:

New prescriber guidance
On Sept. 16, 2020, the Province’s public health officer, Dr, Bonnie Henry, issued a public health order to increase the number of authorized prescribers by issuing a public health order that authorizes registered nurses and registered psychiatric nurses to prescribe a range of medications with appropriate training and education.

In September, government announced the Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions and the Ministry of Health are working with the Office of the Provincial Health Officer to develop an updated policy directive for prescribers and health authorities. This directive builds on the existing risk-mitigation clinical guidance released in March 2020 in partnership with the BC Centre on Substance Use. This new policy guidance, when complete, will provide a broader range of pharmaceutical alternatives and will expand eligibility criteria to help sever people’s reliance on a highly toxic drug supply.

In March 2020, the Province announced new clinical guidance for health-care providers to stem the spread of COVID-19 and respond to the ongoing overdose emergency. The guidance supports people who are at risk of COVID-19 infection, people who have a confirmed infection or a suspected case pending diagnosis and people who have a history of substance use, including opioids, stimulants, alcohol, benzodiazepines or tobacco.

Since March, more than 3,000 people have attended webinars for prescribers, pharmacists, nurses and others on how to use this interim guidance to support people. There has been a 393% increase (from 677 to 3,338) in the number of people dispensed hydromorphone in November 2020 compared to March 2020. Dispensations have occurred in every health authority region in the province.

These statistics also reflect all dispensing from community pharmacies. The percentage dispensed in relation to risk-mitigation guidance has yet to be determined.

A new 24-7 helpline for prescribers and pharmacists
The helpline provides live, in-the-moment support to doctors, pharmacists and nurse practitioners while they are treating patients with opioid use disorder and considering safe prescription alternatives to the toxic drug supply.

Keeping people safe as they stay home:

$10.5 million to further accelerate the response to an increasingly toxic illicit drug supply due to COVID-19
The funding will scale up overdose prevention services, expanding access to substance use services with additional nurses, social workers and peer support workers to help prevent overdose deaths, save lives and connect more people to treatment and recovery throughout the province.

New Lifeguard app
This free app helps save lives by automatically connecting people who use substances to first responders if they become unresponsive. Since its launch in late May, the app has more than 2,800 users and has been used nearly 11,000 times with 11 successful paramedic responses. The app also now provides drug alerts.

Overdose prevention and supervised consumption services
During COVID-19 these have been declared essential services. Government has supported the sites to stay open with new COVID-19 measures to help give people the confidence that they can continue to use these services safely during the pandemic. Since their inception, these 32 locations have played a critical role in connecting people to treatment and have had more than 2 million visits, more than 11,000 overdoses responded to and survived, and zero deaths.

Take Home Naloxone Kits
The kits are available at 1,795 locations, including 741 pharmacies in the province. In 2020, more than 245,000 kits were shipped and more than 71,000 have been reported as used to reverse an overdose since the program started (as of Nov. 15).

Federal funding for safer supply projects in the Cowichan Valley
$5 million in funding for a project in Vancouver and another $2 million in funding for a pilot project within Island Health. These projects will provide pharmaceutical-grade medication as an alternative to the toxic illegal drug supply for people in Vancouver and in the Cowichan Valley who have not responded to other forms of treatment for opioid use disorder.

Community response:

Grants totalling $1.6 million
These grants will be provided to escalate the overdose response in rural, remote and Indigenous communities and to provide supports including groups for grief and loss, family services and networks for people and families impacted by the overdose crisis.

Community Action Teams
$2.5 million in funding to maintain these services in B.C. communities.

People with lived/living experience
Continued investments to ensure people with lived and living experience are involved in service delivery and policy and program development, as well as funding for peer and family support networks.

Facility Overdose Response Box (FORB) program
Provides community organizations with naloxone, supplies and training so staff can recognize and respond to overdose. There are currently 654 registered sites in the province and 1,646 overdose reversals reported from FORB sites (as of Nov. 15).

Indigenous-led solutions:

$20 million was provided by the Province to support the First Nations Health Authority with the replacement of First Nations-run treatment centres throughout B.C.  

$23 million was provided by the Province to the First Nations Health Authority to support the design and expansion of land-based and culturally safe treatment services
As part of this initiative, the First Nations Health Authority has provided funding to First Nations to increase the number of treatment options available to First Nations clients, with a focus on land-based, family-based or group-based treatment services.

The Province of B.C., the Government of Canada and the First Nations Health Authority committed $30 million to support the implementation of a new tripartite partnership for mental health and wellness.  

Provincial overdose emergency response for First Nations communities
$24 million over three years to support the First Nations Health Authority with the overdose emergency response, with an increased focus on addressing the impact of the emergency on First Nations people living in urban centres. 

Métis-led mental health and wellness initiatives
$1.13 million in funding was provided to Métis Nation BC to support Métis-led mental health and wellness initiatives, including the development of a cultural safety and wellness curriculum and a harm reduction and anti-stigma campaign.