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

Boulders near Harrison vandalized with derogatory word

Vandalism likely occured between Sunday evening and Tuesday evening

First rainstorm of the season pelting the Lower Mainland

Batten down the hatches as heavy rains, wind, and some localized flooding possible

Irish folk supergroup Kíla set to perform on Saturday

Online concert will be available through Harrison Festival Society

Reported Kelowna Hells Angels member dies in Fraser Valley motorcycle crash

Michael “Speedy” Christiansen was found dead on Monday morning near Ruby Creek on Highway 7

B.C. reports 91 new cases as officials remain worried over ‘clusters of COVID-19

There have now been a total of 8,395 cases in B.C. since the pandemic began

Canada’s active COVID-19 cases top 10,000 as daily new cases triple over the past month

Dr. Tam repeated her warning to young people, who have made up the majority of recent cases

‘Show us the money’ for cannabis, local governments tell B.C.

Municipal tax, transit revenues falling as costs rise

Young man assaulted, left for 12 hours until help called in Vancouver’s Strathcona Park

Vancouver police are looking to identify the victim as they investigate an assault on Monday evening

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

‘It’s a boy’: Southern Resident killer whale calf born to J Pod is healthy, researchers say

J35 had previously done a ‘Tour of Grief,’ carrying her dead calf for 17 days

People ‘disgusted’ by COVID-19 election call, B.C. Liberal leader says

Andrew Wilkinson speaks to municipal leaders from Victoria

Delta, Metro Vancouver add more than 300 hectares to Burns Bog Conservation Area

Delta Nature Reserve among parcels of land added to conservation area but will remain open to public

‘Illegal’ Canadian crab traps, fishing gear seized in U.S. waters near White Rock

Investigation continues after joint operation between Canadian, American authorities in Boundary Bay

Most Read