New BC Health Order For Nurses – Prescribe Safe Alternatives to Toxic Street Drugs

Victoria – COVID has been the main health focus in 2020, but overdose deaths from illegal drugs has claimed more lives.

The order, issued under the Health Professions Act, from Dr Bonnie Henry PHO (Provincial Health Officer) authorizes registered nurses and registered psychiatric nurses to prescribe pharmaceutical alternatives to street drugs to help separate more people from the poisoned street drug supply to save lives and provide opportunities for ongoing care, treatment and support. New nursing standards will be introduced, along with training and education, and access to expert consultation and pathways to connect people to broader addictions and primary care.

In addition to the public health order, the Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions and the Ministry of Health are working with the Office of the Provincial Health Officer to develop an updated policy directive for prescribers and health authorities, which builds on the existing risk mitigation clinical guidance released in March 2020 in partnership with the BC Centre on Substance Use.

The policy directive is being urgently finalized and is expected to be released as soon as possible in order to:

  • expand eligibility criteria to prioritize reducing overdose events and deaths, and reach individuals with opioid-use disorder, other substance-use disorders or individuals with a history of accessing the toxic street drug supply who are at high risk of overdose and other drug-related harms;
  • carefully expand the types of medications that can be prescribed and dispensed by doctors, pharmacists and nurses;
  • increase access points to allow for dispensing medications from health authorities and community pharmacies; and
  • continue to commit to ongoing evaluation and monitoring and support evidence-based care planning.

For information about overdose prevention: https://www.stopoverdose.gov.bc.ca/

A Pathway to Hope: https://news.gov.bc.ca/files/BCMentalHealthRoadmap_2019.pdf

Support for providers about prescribing and dispensing: https://www.bccsu.ca/24-7/ 

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