Mayor Robertson calls for federal and provincial backing for opioid distribution pilot

published on June 1, 2018 by Perrin Grauer in The Star

VANCOUVER—Mayor Gregor Robertson made a renewed call Thursday for federal and provincial support to launch an opioid distribution pilot program delivering clean drugs to users as an alternative to the city’s increasingly tainted street supply.

The program, spearheaded by Mark Tyndall, executive medical director for the B.C. Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC), would provide access to opioids through dispensing machines activated by biometric data such as a fingerprint or retinal scan.

“Poisonous, illicit drugs are killing our residents, friends and loved ones,” Robertson said in an official statement from the City of Vancouver. “We need to continue taking bold new actions to halt the devastating death toll of the opioid overdose crisis.”

Recent analysis of illicit drugs from the B.C. Centre on Substance Use found less than one in five samples of drugs sold as opioids actually contained the substance they were purported to be in any detectable amount. Almost 90 per cent contained fentanyl — a highly potent synthetic opioid up to 75 times stronger than morphine — the presence of which has led to thousands of overdose deaths in Canada.

Last year, 366 people died of overdoses in Vancouver, while more than 1,400 overdose deaths occurred provincewide, according to a report from the B.C. Coroner’s Service.

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