Victoria/Fraser Valley – In April 2016, red flags went up as fentanyl heated up the opioid crisis.
Lisa Lapointe, chief coroner, has released the following statement in recognition of the sixth anniversary of the public health emergency into substance-related harms:
“Today, we acknowledge and remember the many beloved members of our communities who have been lost to this crisis. Since 2016, the rate of death caused by the toxic drug supply has more than doubled, and in the northern part of our province, the rate has more than tripled. All of those lost were people who contributed to our province in ways big and small, and who were loved by family and friends.
“On this day of tremendous sadness, we know that more must be done and that a better future is possible. The deaths of more than 9,400 people over the past six years is a clear indication that new and innovative programs and options for people who use drugs are urgently needed, and that a health and wellness approach must replace the harmful, stigmatizing practices of the past.
“Much greater access to safer supply across the province is critical to preventing future loss of life. This, alongside decriminalization of possession for personal use, greater access to evidence-based treatment and care, and a continuum of services that meets people where they are, will support those at risk and provide a path out of this crisis.”
Premier John Horgan; Sheila Malcolmson, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions; and Dr. Bonnie Henry, provincial health officer, have issued the following statement on the six-year anniversary of drug-related overdoses being declared a public health emergency in British Columbia:
“Today, our hearts are filled with sorrow as we mark the six-year anniversary of the province’s overdose emergency. We grieve with British Columbians who have lost loved ones – family, friends and neighbours – to the toxic drug crisis.
“This is a sombre reminder that the work underway is crucial to fighting a rising tide of need, saving lives and ending this crisis that disproportionately affects men.
“The street drug supply has become increasingly toxic over the past six years and even more so during the COVID-19 pandemic. Prior to the pandemic, we had made important progress on reducing the number of deaths in our province, but the toxicity of the supply has increased faster than we’ve been able to stand up new services.
“As the crisis continues to evolve, so too must our response.
“At the start of the public health emergency, we rapidly scaled up overdose prevention measures. Since then, we’ve added more options for medication-assisted treatment, inhalation overdose prevention, and community-driven harm-reduction measures. We are leading nationally on prescribed safe supply and decriminalization of people who use drugs.
“In addition, an all-party Select Standing Committee on Health wasput in placeearlier this month, so we can better work with all sides of the legislative assembly, because the toxic drug crisis is not – and should not – be a partisan issue.
“The B.C. government is also working urgently to build a comprehensive and seamless system of mental health and addictions care from the ground up. A historic $500-million investment will build that system, including $132 million to add treatment and recovery services throughout the province.
“Our hearts go out to those affected by the toxic drug crisis. This is an anniversary that cannot continue. We need to come together to protect British Columbians now and into the future. While we are making progress, we know there is much more to do.
“We won’t stop working until we’ve turned this crisis around and a strong, comprehensive system of mental health and addictions care is there to support all British Columbians on their pathway to hope.”