B.C. to get $10-million boost to fight opioid crisis

The federal government announces $65 million across Canada in response to the opioid overdose crisis.

The federal government announced Friday it will spend another $65 million over five years to combat the deadly opioid crisis facing the country, with $10 million coming immediately to B.C.

Exactly how that funding is going to be doled out has yet to be determined, but the B.C. government says it will help support the work of its Joint Task Force on Overdose Response.

Projects include increased access to opioid substitution treatment, law enforcement strategies for fentanyl and carfentanil, supervised consumption services, and more access to the overdose-reversing drug, naloxone.

A total of 944 people died of drug overdoses in B.C. in 2016. An additional 116 people died last month.

“Provinces and even municipalities have been saying we need better access to laboratory testing facilities, we need better toxicology equipment, we need more epidemiologists to help us gather the data,” said federal Health Minister Jane Philpott at the news conference in Richmond.

Said B.C. Health Minister Terry Lake: “We were hoping for more, but it’s time to get down to work. I’m not saying that all of our needs are being filled.”

Lake also announced a provincial boost of $5 million to come next week to support the task force.

Last month, the minister had called on Ottawa to declare the opioid crisis a national public health emergency and give B.C. more cash.

He told reporters Friday: “(The new projects) could mean mobilizing federal resources, much like the mobile medical clinic in the Downtown Eastside – there may be an appropriate role for a similar federal resource in Victoria or Surrey.”

Philpott was asked whether her government planned to legalize illicit drugs to combat the rising numbers in overdoses, but she dismissed that.

Lake said he will look to the B.C. Centre on Substance Abuse for recommendations on possible legalization.

“That’s a discussion that, as Canadians, we are starting to have,” said Lake. “What works in a country like Portugal might not work in a country like Canada that’s next to the largest country in the world.”

 

@katslepian

katya.slepian@bpdigital.ca

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