In what it says is an effort to “combat the continuing crisis and spearhead urgent action to save lives,” the BC government announced on Friday that it is launching a new Overdose Emergency Response Centre.
“Every day, this overdose crisis is devastating families and communities,” said Judy Darcy, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions. “We are escalating our response… to get at the very heart of the crisis so that no one has to lose another loved one.”
In a release, the province said staff at the emergency response centre will bring together provincial, health authority, municipal, Indigenous and law enforcement resources to tackle the overdose crisis at a community level.
The centre will also “work closely with five new regional response teams” to co-ordinate and strengthen addiction and overdose prevention programs on the ground with local teams.
The provincial centre and regional teams will prioritize four essential interventions to save lives and support a path to recovery for addicts.
Those interventions include:
- Proactively identifying and supporting people at risk of overdose – including screening for drug use by health-care providers, clinical followup for people at risk, fast-tracked pathways to treatment and care, and connection to social supports like housing.
- Addressing the unsafe drug supply through wider access to drug checking and substitution drug treatment, such as Suboxone and hydromorphone.
- Expanding community-based harm reduction services, such as supervised consumption and overdose prevention sites, and outreach and mobile programs that extend the reach of harm reduction services.
- Increasing availability of naloxone at the community level, and those trained to use the life-saving treatment.
Dr. Patricia Daly, chief medical health officer for Vancouver Coastal Health, will serve as the centre’s executive director and clinical lead for the Overdose Emergency Response Centre.
“We continue to see the tragic loss of life from overdoses across the province, and we need to intensify the response at all levels to turn this crisis around,” she said.
“This escalated emergency response strategy draws together and co-ordinates many partners – at the community, regional and provincial levels – with a common determination to save lives.”
The centre will work with the regional teams and new community action teams in hard-hit communities to intervene quickly with life-saving responses, early intervention and proactive treatment and support.
New community action teams will be in place by January 2018, in communities identified by overdose data as having most urgent need.
“The commitment and dedication poured into the provincial response over the past 18 months has saved countless lives,”said provincial health officer Dr. Perry Kendall, who declared the overdose crisis a public health emergency in 2016. “But people continue to die in record numbers, and we need to do more.”