British Columbia is in the midst of our worst overdose crisis ever. About 170 British Columbians die every month from overdoses related to the illegal and toxic drug supply. Since a public health emergency was declared in 2016, more than 6,000 people in B.C. have died of preventable overdose. COVID-19 has made the situation more dangerous for people who use drugs by disrupting supply sources and reducing services in place to help people remain safe. Drug policies need to support public health and be based on a compassionate and evidence-based response. Key in this approach is providing people who use drugs with adequate resources to minimize the risks of drug use and support individual and public health.
Harm reduction interventions, such as providing sterile equipment, supervised consumption services, overdose prevention sites, and naloxone are cost-effective and key to ensuring that people at risk of overdose are kept alive. Harm reduction has been proven to reduce the risks of transmissible disease, prevent overdose fatalities, reduce public disorder, and create links for people to access healthcare services and enter treatment.
Decriminalization of personal possession of drugs is a policy option that is increasingly being called for by experts. Recently called for by the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police and B.C.’s Provincial Health Officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, decriminalization will reduce the stigma of drug use, which creates barriers to accessing important health services. It would allow us to reduce the costs of policing and the criminal justice system, which we can reallocate into improved evidence-based treatment programs and education.
In the face of an illegal, toxic drug supply, safe supply is a crucial intervention to keep people safe. By providing access to alternatives through physicians and nurses, safe supply helps people at risk of overdose connect with healthcare professionals and reduce the risk of overdose death.
One of the most pressing crises of our generation has so far not received the attention and action it deserves. Through courageous, evidence-based leadership, we can change this and save lives.
The BC Greens' plan for the Opioid crisis
- Working with the colleges of physicians and pharmacists to encourage their members to participate in existing programs;
- Funding a wider range of safe supply resources, including low-barrier ways of dispensing (e.g. dispensing machines);
- Ongoing consultation with people who use drugs in order to create low-barrier and accessible programs.
- De-prioritizing policing of simple possession through implementing Dr. Bonnie Henry’s recommended amendments to the Police Act;
- Strongly pursuing decriminalization with the Federal government for B.C.