Ministerial order supports urgent overdose response action

Health Minister Terry Lake has taken an extraordinary measure to
respond to the overdose crisis

Ministry of Health

VICTORIA - Health Minister Terry Lake has taken an extraordinary measure to

respond to the overdose crisis by enacting a ministerial order under the

Health Emergency Services Act and Health Authorities Act to support the

development of overdose prevention sites.

The minister has the authority to take such measures in the face of a public

health emergency. The order was enacted on the advice of provincial health

officer Dr. Perry Kendall, and will last for the duration of the public

health emergency which was declared on April 14, 2016.

The alarming rate of overdoses combined with the onset of colder weather

prompted urgent action.

"Despite considerable efforts to reduce the number of overdose deaths in

B.C., too many people continue to succumb. With the recent spike in 911

calls and the cold weather, we knew we needed to act fast to keep people

safe," said Lake. "These overdose prevention sites will help make sure that

people have access to people trained to respond should an overdose occur."

On Dec. 8, 2016, Lake announced these additional health-care supports to be

established in partnership with health authorities and community partners. A

number of overdose prevention sites are opening in December in locations

with high numbers of overdose, including Vancouver's Downtown Eastside,

Victoria, Surrey and Prince George.

The order gives BC Emergency Health Services and regional health authorities

the ability to provide overdose prevention services as necessary on an

emergency basis. It is the responsibility of each individual health

authority to assess the need in their region and provide such emergency

services in a manner consistent with federal legislation.

In addition to the overdose prevention sites, the Province - working with

Vancouver Coastal Health, the City of Vancouver and the Provincial Health

Services Authority - will be stationing its Mobile Medical Unit in the

Downtown Eastside as of Dec. 13, 2016. The MMU is is a state-of-the-art

mobile medical facility that can be used in emergency situations. Emergency

physicians and nurses will be on-site to provide rapid intervention when an

overdose occurs, preventing catastrophic brain injury and death.

Health authorities continue their work to apply for permanent supervised

consumption services, which will have supervision services integrated and

embedded with other health and social services, including mental health and

substance use services and referrals and peer support.

The overdose prevention sites are one of the provincial government's latest

steps in response to the opioid overdose crisis. In July 2016, Premier

Christy Clark appointed a Joint Task Force on Overdose Response, headed by

provincial health officer Dr. Perry Kendall and director of police services

Clayton Pecknold. The task force is providing expert leadership and advice

to the Province on additional actions to prevent and respond to overdoses in

British Columbia. As part of the response, law enforcement is working at all

levels of government to interdict the supply of toxic drugs, and health

officials are working to address the immediate and longer-term health needs.

To that end, B.C. is expanding access to life-saving naloxone, supervised

consumption services, and opioid addiction treatment medications and

services.

Under the task force, the Province launched a broad campaign to alert people

of how to prevent, identify and respond to overdoses. It is also investing

in research, education and training through the new B.C. Centre on Substance

Use to make sure addiction treatment is effective and evidence-based.

Ongoing work to support and treat British Columbians with substance use

issues is also a key part of the province's response. Government is

committed to meeting the goal of opening 500 new substance use treatment

beds in 2017. In the past two years, more than 220 new beds have been opened

as part of this commitment to provide better access to appropriate substance

use supports.