B.C. to bolster service to test drugs for fentanyl

published on November 9, 2017 by Andrea Woo and Justine Hunter in The Globe and Mail

British Columbia is set to expand a program to allow people to check their street drugs for fentanyl, the latest harm-reduction initiative to roll out amid skyrocketing overdose deaths.

The most recent figures from the provincial government show 1,103 confirmed deaths from overdoses of illicit drugs in the first nine months of this year. The year-end total is on pace to be around seven times the annual average in the 2000s.

Judy Darcy, B.C.’s Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, called the worsening trend “devastating.”

“That’s why we are escalating our response,” Ms. Darcy said on Thursday in Victoria. “We’re getting safe injectable medication, safe prescription drugs, into the hands of as many people living with addictions as we possibly can. We are getting more access to naloxone, more access to safe injection sites.”

Ms. Darcy will be at a news event in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside on Friday with Mayor Gregor Robertson and representatives of the B.C. Centre on Substance Use (BCCSU) and Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH). The group is expected to announce an expansion in the number of social service facilities where people can check their drugs for the synthetic opioid fentanyl – a VCH initiative being tested in Vancouver.

Officials will also unveil new drug-checking technology they expect will be a Canadian first. In recent years, dealers have been cutting fentanyl into a growing number of street drugs such as heroin.

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