The Province of B.C. has announced that a new policy is being phased in, which will expand access to prescribed safer drug supply.
According to the B.C. government, $22.6 million will be provided to health authorities over the next three years in order to “lay the foundation” for this initiative.
The government says the money will be spent on the planning, phased implementation, monitoring and evaluation of prescribed safer supply services.
“At the start of the pandemic, B.C. provided access to some prescribed safer supply medications to save lives from overdose and protect people from COVID-19,” said Sheila Malcolmson, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions. “Building on what we’ve learned, we’re expanding access to prescribed safer supply”
According to the Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions, once the initiative is fully implemented, people who use drugs will be able to access prescribed alternatives covered by Pharmacare as opposed to sourcing drugs from the toxic illicit drug supply.
The Pharmacare offerings will include a range of opioids and stimulants as determined by programs and prescribers, says the government.
The government says that these new measures are aimed at minimizing the risk of death as more than 7,000 people have lost lives from toxic illicit drugs over the course of the ongoing opioid crisis.
“Bringing in this new policy to expand prescribed safer supply is a big change for B.C.’s healthcare system,” said Dr. Bonnie Henry, provincial health officer. “It’s about meeting people where they are at, reducing the risk of toxic drug death and connecting people to the care they need and deserve.”
B.C. is the first province in Canada to introduce this initiative for expanding access to a prescribed safer drug supply.
This new prescribed safer supply policy will roll out through a phased approach, says the government, beginning with implementing the policy in existing health-authority-funded programs that currently prescribe alternatives to illicit drugs.
In addition, the initiative will create new programs such as service hubs and outreach teams.
The first phase of this new policy is expected to be in place for 18 to 24 months as data is collected to assess this approach.
“Phased implementation ensures patient and prescriber safety, as well as providing an opportunity for rigorous monitoring and evaluation as B.C. builds a body of evidence that will lead to clinical guidance for this policy,” reads a statement from the Ministry.
Future phases of the policy will expand broader access once the clinical guidance is developed based on findings from the monitoring and evaluation process.
More information about the new policy can be found here: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/assets/