VICTORIA, B.C. - Today Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C.'s Provincial Health Officer, issued a public health order to help slow B.C.'s overdose crisis by increasing the number of health professionals authorized to help people at risk for overdose access safer alternatives to the toxic street drug supply, as B.C. works to update prescribing guidelines.
Since March, a federal exemption under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act has allowed for a "safe supply" in British Columbia, but access and effectiveness proved limited.
"The opioid crisis in B.C. is first and foremost a health crisis, and therefore requires a health response from our provincial government and health officials," said B.C. Green Party leader MLA Sonia Furstenau for Cowichan Valley. "For years, advocates, academics, and medical professionals have been calling for accessible treatment, a safer drug supply, and voluntary, community-based support - available to people where they need it, when they are ready. It is heartening to see progress and concrete action on this front."
"Well over four years into this public health emergency and it is impossible to properly articulate the depth of the sorrow, the weight of the heartache that continues to blanket B.C. I know for all of those families and friends who have lost someone or are terrified they will, the future can look very dark. To the British Columbians doing everything - everything - possible to save the ones you love, I am hopeful this policy change will finally bring some safety and hope to your lives," said Adam Olsen, MLA for Saanich-North and the Islands and a member of Tsartlip First Nation.
"Ensuring the availability and accessibility of pharmaceutical-grade alternatives needed to further minimize the threat of poisonous street drugs is an exciting and major change. But safe supply on its own is not enough against this public health crisis. We need to commit to treatment programs, mental health supports, affordable housing, income and other social supports in conjunction with safe supply to prevent any further loss of life to this crisis," said MLA Furstenau.
"The B.C. Green Caucus also believes we need to decriminalize illicit drug use and put an end to the heavy policing of those who need support," said MLA Olsen. "There are so many aspects in responding to the opioid crisis - all levels of government need to commit to working with health experts and community organizers, to ensure the system works and British Columbians can access the support they need."
The Confidence and Supply Agreement between the B.C. Green Caucus and NDP government led to the creation of the Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions and stated the Minister would develop and implement a Mental Health and Addictions Strategy and a Youth Mental Health Strategy. Further detailing that the Ministry would have sufficient funding to provide frontline services, including funding for early intervention, youth mental health initiatives, supervised injection sites, and community-based centres for mental health and rehabilitation. Continuing, the Confidence and Supply Agreement committed government to developing an immediate response to the fentanyl crisis based on successful programs that invest in treatment-on-demand, drugs substitution, early-warning monitoring systems, and coordinated response.
B.C. Green Caucus
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