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Minister’s statement on BC Coroners Service report on illicit drug toxicity deaths

Enhancing treatment and recovery

Double the number of youth treatment beds: $36 million until 2023, for 123 new substance-use treatment and withdrawal management beds for youth (aged 12 to 24 years). Locations are being determined in consultation with regional health authorities and based on greatest need.

New beds for addictions and recovery care: $16 million for 50 to 70 new treatment and recovery beds and to support existing services that have been challenged by COVID-19.

Better, safer care in supportive recovery: More government oversight, expanded training for staff and higher per diem rates for people on income assistance in supportive recovery.

Expanded opioid agonist treatment: The number of patients dispensed opioid agonist treatment (OAT) had grown to 22,932 as of June 2020. The number of clinicians prescribing any form of opioid agonist treatment in a given month increased from 773 in June 2017 to 1,536 in June 2020. Government has also significantly expanded access through Rapid Access to Addictions Care Clinics in all health regions (42 new patients per week with 2,500 referred to community for ongoing care) so that more people can access the care they need, where and when they need it.

More flexible treatment options: There are more options than ever – including injectable opioid agonist treatment (across eight sites in B.C.), low-barrier pharmaceutical alternate programs (increasingly available at some supervised consumption services so people can get directly connected to treatment; expanding to 335 patients in Vancouver, the Interior and Fraser Health).

$40 million provided to upgrade First Nations-run treatment centres: Throughout B.C., plans call for eight projects: two new facilities and six replacement facilities in coming years.

Improving the substance use system of care

New substance-use teams to keep people connected to services and treatment: Seven new and nine expanded substance-use teams throughout the province to help people stay connected to health-care services, treatment and recovery.

Emergency room connections: Improving access to evidence-informed care, including access to Suboxone.

Emergency health services pilot project: Through a partnership with BC Emergency Health Services, more people who are not already connected to care are being provided with referrals and ongoing support if they decline transport to hospital following an overdose.

Significant expansion of mental health and addictions counselling: Through community counselling grants.

Responding to an even more toxic drug supply

New prescriber guidance: In March 2020, new guidance for prescribers and pharmacists was released to keep people with substance-use disorder separated from the toxic drug supply and to protect them from withdrawal and other harms during COVID-19. The program has trained more doctors, nurse practitioners and pharmacists on how to prescribe safe alternatives to the toxic drug supply: 3,018 people have attended webinars for prescribers on how to use the new guidance to support people.

There has been a 222% increase (from 677 to 2,181 people) in the number of people dispensed hydromorphone in July 2020 compared to March 2020. Dispensations have occurred in every health authority region in the province. Pharmaceutical options give patients the opportunity to stabilize and take the steps necessary to find a pathway to treatment and avoid accessing the highly toxic and unpredictable toxic drug supply.

A new 24/7 helpline for prescribers and pharmacists: Provides live, in-the-moment support to doctors, pharmacists and nurse practitioners while they are treating patients with opioid-use disorder and considering safe prescription alternatives to the toxic drug supply.

Keeping people safe at home

$10.5 million to further accelerate the response to an increasingly toxic illicit drug supply due to COVID-19: The funding will scale up overdose prevention services (17 new safe consumption sites and 12 new inhalation services), expand access (42 new full-time nurses, social workers and peer support workers) to safe prescription alternatives to separate people from toxic street drugs and add new outreach teams to help prevent overdose deaths, save lives and connect more people to treatment and recovery throughout the province.

New lifeguard app: The free app helps to save lives by connecting people who use substances automatically to first responders if they become unresponsive. Since its launch in late May 2020, more than 1,500 people have used the app. It has helped first responders save lives.

Overdose prevention and supervised consumption services: During COVID-19, these sites have been declared essential services. Government has supported the sites to stay open with new COVID-19 measures to help give people the confidence that they can continue to use these services safely during the pandemic. Since their inception, these 32 locations have played a crucial role in connecting people to treatment and have had more than 1.8 million visits, more than 9,933 overdoses responded to and survived, and zero deaths.

Take-home naloxone kits: Available at 1,738 locations, including more than 732 pharmacies in B.C. In 2019, 204,740 kits were shipped and 63,807 have been reported as used to reverse an overdose.

Federal funding for safer supply projects in the Cowichan Valley: $2 million in funding for a pilot project within Island Health. The innovative project will provide pharmaceutical-grade medication as an alternative to the toxic illegal drug supply for people in Cowichan Valley who have not responded to other forms of treatment for opioid-use disorder.

Community response

Grants totalling $1.6 million: These grants will be provided to escalate the overdose response in rural and Indigenous communities and to provide supports including groups for grief and loss, family services and networks for people and families affected by the overdose crisis.

People with lived/living experience: Continued investments to ensure people with lived and living experience are involved in service delivery, policy and program development.

Facility Overdose Response Box program: Provides community organizations with naloxone, supplies and training so staff can recognize and respond to overdose. There are 625 registered sites in the province.

Indigenous-led solutions

$40 million provided to upgrade First Nations-run treatment centres: Throughout B.C., plans call for eight projects – two new facilities and six replacement facilities in coming years.

Land-based healing: $23 million for crucial, land-based cultural programs that support healing from trauma and strengthen resiliency.

$44 million to the First Nations Health Authority: To support the overdose emergency response as it relates to First Nations communities.

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