Dozens of recommendations in overdose and drug toxicity report by B.C. MLAs

A person holds a syringe and an orange while learning how to administer Naloxone to an overdose victim, during an International Overdose Awareness Day gathering in Surrey, B.C., on Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2022.

VICTORIA — An all-party committee at British Columbia’s legislature has released a report on drug toxicity and overdose deaths that calls for dozens of urgent steps from the province to address the deadly crisis.

The more than three dozen recommendations include ensuring continuity of care for at-risk people, expanding a take-home naloxone program, and engaging with health-care providers to reduce barriers in prescribing a safe supply of drugs.

The report also seeks a “substantial increase” in funding for recovery and detox programs, while recommending overdose and mental health calls be redirected from police to more specialized responders whenever possible.

The committee says since beginning work in April, it heard stories of “agony, frustration and hope” from almost 1,000 oral and written submissions, and that the crisis represents a “staggering loss.”

Sheila Malcolmson, minister of mental health and addictions, says in a statement that the report’s recommendations “reaffirm” the approach the government is already taking.

A provincial coroner’s report released in September says the rate of toxic drug deaths is 42 people per 100,000, twice what it was in April 2016 when the government declared a public health emergency over the rising rate of overdoses.

“As the illicit drug supply gets increasingly more toxic, we face a rising tide of need in British Columbia. There is more to do to tackle this public health emergency,” Malcolmson said.

Committee chair Niki Sharma said in a news release that its members heard some residents aren’t able to access life-saving services.

“The committee’s report makes recommendations to further scale up government’s response to ensure that all British Columbians can access high-quality substance-use support and care when they need it,” Sharma said.

The committee’s recommendations also include funding Indigenous-led and designed substance-use supports, increasing funding for public awareness and anti-stigma initiatives, and integrating a mental health option in 911 calls.

Committee member Sonia Furstenau, leader of the B.C. Greens, said in a statement that the report’s recommendations did not go as far as she had hoped.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 1, 2022.

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