Premier John Horgan announced last week the launch of a community crisis fund and scaling up rapid access to addiction treatment as part of a provincewide plan to stem the overdose emergency and help save lives.
Medical Health Officer with Interior Health, Dr. Silvina Mema says they have used or put in place all of the strategies that from a medical perspective are based on evidence.
“That is access to treatment, access to take home naloxone, access to supervised consumption and as you may be aware the crisis is not getting better in terms of overdose deaths.”
The BC Coroners Service has reported 876 illegal drug overdose deaths in B.C. in 2017 to date, with fentanyl detected in 81% of cases.
Dr. Mema says although there is a lot of effort to curb the crisis, they have unfortunately not made the progress that they would have liked to see.
She says there is an invisible barrier of stigma that is not allowing to them to reach to the most vulnerable and they are dying.
Thousands of kits of Naloxone have been distributed throughout Interior Health and across BC which have saved many lives although it is not a solution according to Dr. Mema.
“We are responding to this devastating tragedy with compassion, understanding and urgent action,” said Minister of Mental Health and Addictions Judy Darcy. “Overdoses can happen in any community, in any corner of our province. This is why we’re reaching out to partners in business, labour, community organizations and local government as we escalate our response. It will take all of us working together to reach people who need help and solve this crisis.”
New measures announced by Government on Friday include a community crisis innovation fund, scaling up rapid-access community treatment, broader access to no-cost naloxone kits, support for those on the front lines, and public awareness campaigns.
“We believe that this is not a problem that the health authority alone can solve, and we welcome the support of the Ministry in terms of resources, in terms of promotion of this problem, and making the community a priority,” says Dr. Mema who adds that Interior Health is looking at innovative approaches such as drug checking that would allow people to get their drugs checked before use.
Action according to the Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions is also being taken to protect public safety and cut off illegal fentanyl supplies with $31.3 million allocated over three years to critical enforcement and public safety initiatives.