Judy Darcy, minister tasked with B.C.’s response to the opioid crisis, outlines next steps with harm reduction

published on October 25, 2017 by Travis Lupick in The Georgia Straight

In a wide-ranging interview, B.C.’s first minister of mental health and addictions reflected on what she’s learned from responders on the front lines

B.C.’s first minister of mental health and addictions has been on the job for three months now. Judy Darcy has worked to create a new office within the government as the province experiences, in her words, “the worst public-health emergency we’ve had in decades”.

The NDP MLA for New Westminster said her job began with an education on B.C.’s opioid crisis. In a lengthy interview with the Straight, she recounted those experiences and discussed B.C.’s next steps responding to the epidemic.

Crosstown Clinic has offered prescription heroin to a small group of select patients since 2014. Darcy said the province is now in the process of expanding access, making similar programs available at other locations.Except, she said, in line with B.C. Centre on Substance Use guidelines released on October 11, patients won’t receive prescription heroin like those at Crosstown do. Instead, B.C.’s new injectable-opioid-substitution programs will dispense hydromorphone (brand name Dilaudid), a synthetic opioid similar to heroin.

“What the clinical experts tell me is that for most people, hydromorphone works as well as prescription diacetylmorphine [the medical term for heroin],” Darcy explained. “And it has far less regulatory barriers. It is already available and that means we’re in a position to scale it up far more rapidly.”

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