Health Minister Terry Lake and Minister of Public Safety Mike Morris have issued the following statement on the overdose crisis:
“As one of the areas most severely affected by the overdose epidemic, we acknowledge the sense of urgency and crisis being felt in Vancouver. We take this situation very seriously, which is why provincial health officer Dr. Perry Kendall declared a public health emergency in April and Premier Christy Clark established a joint task force to mobilize the province’s response to this crisis.
“The overdose crisis is a very complex issue involving many social factors, including housing, public safety, policing, border control, public health, harm reduction, and addiction and recovery treatment, as well as legislation that crosses many jurisdictional boundaries. There is no quick and easy solution, but we are taking decisive action across all sectors to do all we can to respond and save lives. This includes significant expenditures, totalling more than $43 million that has been earmarked so far to support this work.
“Most in the spotlight thus far have been our actions to address the immediate harms and save lives right now – through harm reduction measures like expanding access to naloxone, establishing overdose prevention sites, stationing the province’s Mobile Medical Unit in the Downtown Eastside and working with the federal government to interrupt the supply of drugs coming into the country. However, there is also significant work taking place on the longer-term solutions required to ensure we have a more co-ordinated and accessible system of care for addictions treatment.
“The Province committed to opening 500 substance use beds and we stand by our commitment to reach that goal in 2017. Health authorities are opening a significant number of beds in January, and we expect to have met the 500-bed commitment by the end of March. But we also know that beds are not the only answer to this public health emergency – the solution involves the full continuum of care – from community and primary care, withdrawal management, supportive recovery, concurrent disorders program as well as residential treatment, and how the different pieces of the system interact.
“We invested significant funding to establish the BC Centre on Substance Use, which is working to ensure our addictions treatment system is effective and based on the latest research, and that health-care providers are trained on the very latest addictions treatment protocols. The Province, working with our partners in the health system, has made and continues to make significant investments and expenditures to improve interventions, co-ordinate services and build a better system. This will take time.
“Many, many staff in the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General, as well as health authorities, first responders including paramedics, firefighters and police, physicians, community workers, non-profit organizations and other involved agencies have dedicated countless hours to mobilizing the province’s response.
“We know there is more work to do, and government is continuing to take advice and direction from the Joint Task Force, and will take further action as required based on that.”