B.C. to put more money into over­dose pre­ven­tion

Medicine Hat News - - UP FRONT -

VAN­COU­VER Peo­ple on the front lines of Bri­tish Columbia’s opi­oid over­dose cri­sis are ap­plaud­ing the gov­ern­ment’s an­nounce­ment of more fund­ing in an at­tempt to stem the death toll.

Pre­mier John Hor­gan an­nounced Fri­day the prov­ince will spend more than $31 mil­lion over the next three years to in­crease ac­cess to treat­ment pro­grams, of­fer more free kits of the over­dose-re­vers­ing drug nalox­one, help front-line work­ers and em­power com­mu­ni­ties to keep peo­ple safe.

Speak­ing to a crowd of lo­cal politi­cians at the Union of B.C. Mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties Con­ven­tion, Hor­gan noted 876 peo­ple died in the prov­ince be­tween Jan­uary and July of this year.

“These are our sons and our daugh­ters, our broth­ers and our sis­ters, our moth­ers and our fa­thers. And if to­day is an av­er­age day, four more peo­ple will die. And that’s just not ac­cept­able to me and I know it’s not ac­cept­able to you,” Hor­gan said.

The pro­grams will be funded with $322 mil­lion al­lo­cated to com­bat the cri­sis in the gov­ern­ment’s re­cent bud­get up­date.

Part of the money will go to rap­i­dac­cess treat­ment for peo­ple seek­ing help. New ad­dic­tion clinics will be opened and ex­ist­ing clinics will ex­pand their hours in Van­cou­ver, Burn­aby, Chilli­wack, Ab­bots­ford, Mis­sion and Lan­g­ley.

“If some­one reaches out for help, we should be there to help them,” Hor­gan said.

Dr. Evan Wood, di­rec­tor of the B.C. Cen­tre on Sub­stance Use, said ex­pand­ing ac­cess to treat­ment is key to ad­dress­ing the cri­sis. He wants to see a sce­nario where peo­ple get help when they ask for it.

“The key will re­ally be if some­body shows up in an emer­gency room, this is a health con­di­tion like any other and peo­ple are able to get care,” he said in an in­ter­view.

Tra­di­tion­ally, peo­ple who come to an emer­gency room for con­di­tions such as a heart at­tack get great care, but those who ar­rive suf­fer­ing from opi­oid with­drawal don’t get the help they need, he said.

Pro­vid­ing long-term care will also be crit­i­cal be­cause ad­dic­tion is a chronic dis­ease, Wood said.

B.C. will also cre­ate a com­mu­nity cri­sis in­no­va­tion fund “to sup­port nim­ble, in­no­va­tive, com­mu­nity-based ac­tions with an im­me­di­ate im­pact on the ground,” the prov­ince said in a re­lease.

Com­mu­nity ini­tia­tives have al­ready been “hugely help­ful” in keep­ing peo­ple safe dur­ing the cri­sis, said Capt. Jonathan Gormick, spokesman for Van­cou­ver Fire and Res­cue Ser­vices.

Groups on Van­cou­ver’s Down­town East­side have saved count­less lives and less­ened the load on emer­gency ser­vices by hand­ing out nalox­one and cre­at­ing pop-up safe con­sump­tion sites, he said.

“The more money that’s avail­able for peo­ple to come up with in­no­va­tive pro­grams that suit the needs of their spe­cific com­mu­nity, the bet­ter. And that will only serve to lessen the strain on emer­gency ser­vices.”

Aiyanas Or­mond with the Van­cou­ver Area Net­work of Drug Users said the fund­ing for com­mu­nity groups is wel­come, but there are con­cerns about the prov­ince spend­ing more on en­forc­ing drug laws.

An ad­di­tional $31 mil­lion has been set aside over three years to sup­port pub­lic safety and cut off sup­plies of fen­tanyl, which the BC Coroners Ser­vice has said was de­tected in more than 80 per cent of il­licit drug deaths this year.

More po­lice of­fi­cers will be hired and an anti-traf­fick­ing team will be cre­ated, Hor­gan said.

“We’re go­ing to do ev­ery­thing we can to get fen­tanyl out of our streets while we treat the peo­ple who are af­flicted by it,” he said.

Or­mond said the Van­cou­ver Area Net­work of Drug Users is “dead set” against fund­ing for the over­dose cri­sis be­ing spent on polic­ing.

“We know from our ex­pe­ri­ence here on the ground that the drug war and the way po­lice treat peo­ple who use drugs in our neigh­bour­hood just makes peo­ple more vul­ner­a­ble to over­dose.”

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