Sheila Malcolmson, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, has issued the following statement regarding the release of the BC Coroners Service Death Review Panel Report into Illicit Toxicity Drug Deaths:
“I recognize the BC Coroners Service and panel members for their report on the devastating deaths in our province due to illicit toxic drugs. We know we must do more to combat the illicit toxic drug crisis, and our government is working hard every day to end this public-health emergency.
“This report confirms the urgency of the work underway by our government. Specifically, it calls on government to build an evidence-based continuum of care to deliver mental-health and substances services, including safer supply. And that is exactly what our government is doing.
“We are making historic investments into mental-health and substance-use services to build a system of care where there wasn’t one in 2017. This work is critical and is well underway.
“We agree that one of the most important actions we can take to save lives is to separate people from the toxic drug supply. That’s why B.C. implemented in 2020, and expanded in 2021, a safer supply program – the first and only province in Canada to do this.
“Since the federal government regulates controlled drugs and substances, we are focused on what we can do within our provincial jurisdiction – a prescribed safer supply model implemented through health authorities.
“The panel also found that the current drug policy of prohibition was contributing to an increase in substance-related emergencies and deaths. We agree. We are treating substance use and addiction as a health-care issue, not a criminal one. We are the first and only province to apply to decriminalize people who use drugs. Decriminalization will reduce the fear and shame that keeps people silent and leads so many to hide their drug use and avoid treatment and support.
“There is more to do along the entire continuum of care to end the poisoned drug crisis, including treatment and recovery, harm reduction and mental-health supports. We won’t stop working until we turn this crisis around.”