Jennifer Whiteside, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, has released the following statement regarding the BC Coroner’s Service’s year-end report:
“The toxic-drug crisis continues to devastate our province. Today’s release by the BC Coroners Service of the 2022 drug toxicity deaths is a sharp reminder of lives cut too short and of families left behind. We mourn the 2,272 lives lost last year in British Columbia, not as a number but as people who matter. They are siblings, parents, neighbours and friends from communities across the province and my heart goes out to all those we lost and everyone who loved them.
“I remain grateful for the tremendous work of the first responders and health-care workers who work on the front lines of this crisis every day. The work they do changes lives and makes a difference in communities across the province.
“Our government is working hard to build up a comprehensive mental-health and substance-use system of care that works for everyone in our province.
“We want to make sure that when people make the important decision to reach out for help, services are available to meet them at every step of their journey. That’s why we are continuing to add services to tackle this crisis from all sides.
“Through historic investments, the government is building a system of care, including enhancements across the full spectrum of treatment and recovery. For example, we are adding new substance-use beds, expanding medication-assisted treatment and increasing access to low- and no-cost community counselling services throughout B.C. We are also investing in life-saving harm-reduction measures, such as prescribed safer supply, drug checking and overdose prevention services.
“While these investments are important, reducing stigma is a vital part of B.C.’s work to build that system of care. Today, British Columbia became the first province to decriminalize people who use drugs to fight the shame and stigma around addictions. Breaking down these barriers will help people feel safer reaching out for support and create new pathways to life-saving services and care. Because substance use is a public health matter – not a criminal justice one.
“This is a historic change, but it will not solve the crisis on its own. We are using every tool in B.C.’s toolbox and we care committed to continue working with all levels of government, Indigenous communities, health authorities and community partners until we turn the tide on this crisis.”
For updated actions on the drug poisoning response, visit: https://news.gov.bc.ca/factsheets/escalated-drug-poisoning-response-actions-1