Opinion | Strengthening our response to B.C.’s opioid crisis

published on January 30, 2017 by Terry Lake, for CBC News in CBC News

Health minister shares his views as part of our series, The Fentanyl Fix, solutions to B.C’s overdose crisis

British Columbia is experiencing one of the most tragic health crises of our time.

Over the last year, more than 900 people died of illicit drug overdoses in British Columbia “” numbers unprecedented in our province’s history. Illicit drugs “” in particular synthetic opioids like fentanyl “” are claiming lives every day.

I have spent hours researching illicit drugs, addiction and recovery, and many more hours consulting experts in these fields. I have come to realize that, as we combat this tragedy, we have a chance to turn a new page on how we help people with addictions.

Harm reduction critical first step

People must be alive for us to help them with their addiction. That is why the emergency harm reduction measures we put in place as our first steps have been so critical “” without which the death toll from this terrible epidemic would have been much higher.

In fact, B.C. has distinguished itself as a leader in the battle against illicit drug overdoses. We were the first to declare a public health emergency and the premier was the first to assemble a joint task force of leading health and criminal justice experts to address this crisis from all fronts.

We are the only jurisdiction in North America to have supervised consumption services and we were the first to implement overdose-prevention sites.

We were also the first province in Canada to establish a take-home naloxone program, which has provided more than 22,000 lifesaving kits; this and our regulatory changes to allow all first responders to carry naloxone has helped reverse thousands of overdoses throughout B.C., saving countless lives.

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