Minister’s statement on BC Coroners Service report on deaths from illicit drug overdoses
Feb. 7, 2019
VICTORIA – The BC Coroners Service’s 2018 Data Release for illicit Drug Overdose Deaths in British Columbia has stated that in 2018, 1,489 people died by overdose due to a poisoned, unregulated drug supply. In response, Judy Darcy, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, has released the following statement:
“My heart goes out to every family that has lost a loved one to overdose. This crisis truly shows us that people from all walks of life – professionals, people living in poverty, tradespeople and many other sectors – are all affected by addiction.
“The Province’s commitment is stronger than ever to work every single day with all of our partners to escalate our response so we can save more lives. We can never lose sight of the fact that the overdose crisis represents real people – and real families – from communities throughout B.C.
“By the end of this day, four people will die from an overdose in British Columbia. Most of these people will die alone – with no one beside them, no one to call for help. Each life lost is an unspeakable tragedy.
“We are using every possible available tool to save lives, including a first-in-Canada pilot project at the St. Paul’s Hospital emergency department that provides people who have survived an overdose with take-home doses of suboxone and a well-defined treatment plan. This helps to stabilize people with opioid use disorder, ensuring they are connected to a safe alternative to toxic street drugs.
“We estimate our strategies have averted 4,700 deaths due to life-saving supports in place around the province. This includes scaled-up distribution of naloxone, more overdose prevention sites and better access to opioid agonist treatment.
“As we look to the year ahead, we will continue to work closely with our partners to save lives and increase access to mental-health and addictions services and supports. We are working with, engaging with and listening to the valuable advice of people with lived experience and of all those on the frontlines.
“I’d like to thank the BC Coroners Service for this important work. These reports are critical in helping us understand this crisis, in which health authorities and cities are most impacted, and how we can best reach out to those in need.
“I want to acknowledge the commitment and heroic efforts of those who are on the frontlines saving lives and connecting people to treatment and social supports. To all of the community workers, first responders, health-care professionals, peers and families – I applaud you for your dedication to helping British Columbians at a time in their lives when they need it most.
“I know that by continuing to work together, we will turn the tide on this crisis for people and families throughout British Columbia.”
A backgrounder follows with key actions taken by the British Columbia government.
Key actions taken by the B.C. government to combat the opioid crisis
- Take-home naloxone kits are available at over 1,480 locations, including almost 600 community pharmacies.
- Twenty-one overdose prevention sites and nine supervised consumption sites are run by regional health authorities.
- In the past two years, these sites were visited more than one million times with thousands of overdoses survived.
- There has never been an overdose death at a location providing overdose prevention or supervised consumption service in B.C.
- Funding and enabling organizations to implement safer supply programs for people most at risk of overdose, e.g., PHS Molson Overdose prevention site.
- Investment of $1.7 million into Community Innovation Projects driven by organizations in 27 communities, focused on local action to save lives, address stigma and connect more people to treatment and recovery.
- Signing of a historic tripartite agreement with First Nations and the federal government that fundamentally changes relationships around addiction and mental health and wellness, putting First Nations communities in the driver’s seat in shaping and delivering programs.
- Funding of $20 million over three years for First Nations communities and Indigenous peoples to help address the overdose crisis.
- Signing an agreement with the federal government to secure $33.98 million in federal funding to improve the capacity of the treatment system and to facilitate better linkages between people at risk of overdose and the treatment system.
- Six injectable opioid agonist treatment (OAT) clinics that have the capacity to serve 314 clients (five in Vancouver, one in Surrey).
- Further expansion planned with health authorities is underway. Two additional sites are expected to be in operation by April 2019 with capacity to serve 40 clients (20 in Victoria, 20 in the Interior).
- The number of people receiving oral OAT grew from 19,240 in June 2017 to 21,549 in December 2018, an increase of 10%.
Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions