Premier John Horgan; Sheila Malcolmson, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions; and Dr. Bonnie Henry, provincial health officer, have issued the following statement on the six-year anniversary of drug-related overdoses being declared a public health emergency in British Columbia:
“Today, our hearts are filled with sorrow as we mark the six-year anniversary of the province’s overdose emergency. We grieve with British Columbians who have lost loved ones – family, friends and neighbours – to the toxic drug crisis.
“This is a sombre reminder that the work underway is crucial to fighting a rising tide of need, saving lives and ending this crisis that disproportionately affects men.
“The street drug supply has become increasingly toxic over the past six years and even more so during the COVID-19 pandemic. Prior to the pandemic, we had made important progress on reducing the number of deaths in our province, but the toxicity of the supply has increased faster than we’ve been able to stand up new services.
“As the crisis continues to evolve, so too must our response.
“At the start of the public health emergency, we rapidly scaled up overdose prevention measures. Since then, we’ve added more options for medication-assisted treatment, inhalation overdose prevention, and community-driven harm-reduction measures. We are leading nationally on prescribed safe supply and decriminalization of people who use drugs.
“In addition, an all-party Select Standing Committee on Health was put in place earlier this month, so we can better work with all sides of the legislative assembly, because the toxic drug crisis is not – and should not – be a partisan issue.
“The B.C. government is also working urgently to build a comprehensive and seamless system of mental health and addictions care from the ground up. A historic $500-million investment will build that system, including $132 million to add treatment and recovery services throughout the province.
“Our hearts go out to those affected by the toxic drug crisis. This is an anniversary that cannot continue. We need to come together to protect British Columbians now and into the future. While we are making progress, we know there is much more to do.
“We won’t stop working until we’ve turned this crisis around and a strong, comprehensive system of mental health and addictions care is there to support all British Columbians on their pathway to hope.”