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
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