Federal government to boost treatment options for opioid drug users: minister

More than 2,800 people died last year as a result of the overdose crisis

Ottawa is planning to boost treatment options for opioid drug users as it tries to deal with what Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor is calling a national public health crisis.

Petitpas Taylor outlined some of the steps the federal government aims to take at a conference Wednesday of the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction.

More than 2,800 people died last year as a result of the crisis and Petitpas Taylor said that number is expected to exceed 3,000 in 2017.

In B.C., more than 1,100 lives have been claimed to overdoses so far this year.

“This situation certainly keeps me up at night,” she said. “These numbers aren’t abstract to me. I know the toll that the opioid crisis is having in our communities such as Vancouver.”

She said the government plans to support pilot projects to provide safer opioid alternatives, such as the pain medication dilaudid, at supervised consumption sites. There are 25 such sites across Canada and locations for the pilots are expected to be announced in a few weeks.

READ MORE: First Nations people in B.C. three times more likely to die of overdose

READ MORE: B.C. launches new drug-checking program, expands fentanyl testing

They will be funded through the federal Substance Use and Addictions Program, which provides $26.3 million in funding a year to tackle substance use issues.

Petitpas Taylor added that she wants to work with provinces and territories to find a better way to establish temporary overdose prevention sites if there’s an urgent need.

“This is an emergency and … sometimes the short-term measures need to be taken to address the reality on the ground,” she said in her speech.

“We are in the midst of a national public health crisis and no one group or government can address it alone.”

Ottawa also aims to hold consultations on removing some of the barriers to obtaining prescription-grade heroin so that users don’t have to visit a hospital several times a day.

“Right now, if you would like to provide prescription-grade heroin, it must be done in a hospital setting. We’re consulting on whether or not we should remove those barriers so that it can be accessed in more places,” said Suzy McDonald, assistant deputy minister in charge of opioid response.

Another plan is to allow drug-checking services to ensure safety at all authorized supervised consumption sites should they want to offer it.

The Liberal government’s most recent budget set aside $100 million over five years to fight the opioid crisis.

Petitpas Taylor announced Wednesday that one-third of that money would be put in a harm reduction fund, which includes efforts to prevent infectious diseases like HIV and hepatitis C amongst intravenous drug users. Part of that fund is also earmarked for the Dr. Peter Centre in Vancouver so that it can provide training to new supervised consumption sites across Canada.

Petitpas Taylor said decriminalization is off the table.

“We are exploring other avenues right now.”

Lauren Krugel, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Maple Ridge author launches new fantasy series

Brooke Carter’s first book, The Stone of Sorrow, comes out April 7

Social media a blessing and a curse during time of crisis: B.C. communication expert

‘In moments of crisis, fear is very real and palpable,’ says SFU’s Peter Chow-White

Friends surpise recently married couple with COVID-19 friendly reception on Pitt Meadows street

Anastasija and Joshua Davis saw shattered plan turns into a reception many will never forget

Lack of education playing role in Fraser North students missing out on mental health services

2018 B.C. Adolescent Health Survey notes students do not know where to turn to for help

School District 42 provides update on continued learning plan

Superintendent Sylvia Russell says staff will be in touch with Ridge Meadows students and families

B.C. issues guidelines about distancing, reusable bags to grocery stores amid COVID-19

Hand sanitizer and markers to keep lines two metres are apart are needed, province says

No plans to call in military right now to enforce COVID-19 quarantine: Trudeau

Trudeau unveils $7.5M for Kids Help Phone, $9M for vulnerable seniors amid COVID-19

QUIZ: How much do you know about the Olympics?

Put your knowledge to the test with these 12 questions

B.C. announces $3M for food banks to increase capacity during COVID-19

It is not clear how much of the money will flow towards Greater Victoria food banks

B.C. is seeing the highest rate of COVID-19 recovery in Canada, and there’s a few reasons why

British Columbia was one of the first to see rise in COVID-19 cases, and has also switched up testing

World COVID-19 update: U.S. expects 100,000 deaths; Oregon declares disaster

Comprehensive update of world news for Sunday, March 19.

B.C. Ferries passengers staying away, as asked, during COVID-19 pandemic

Ferry corporation says ridership down 70-80 per cent over the last week and a half

Sewers stitch masks to free up supplies for front-line health-care workers

“We have little old ladies sewing up a storm,” said Joan Davis

Most Read