As the B.C. Government works to combat the opioid crisis within the province, it has provided $10.5-million to help fund overdose prevention, supports, and treatment.

“There have been devastating consequences for people who use substances during dual public health emergencies,” said Judy Darcy, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions. “Last month saw a record number of lives lost to overdose – all the more heart-breaking since before COVID-19, we had managed to bring deaths down for the first time. The illicit drug supply is more toxic than ever before. That’s why we are accelerating our response to connect more people to life-saving prevention and treatment services and supports as we work to build a full continuum of care that works for all British Columbians. Together, we can stem this terrible tide.”

The Province said the funding will help scale-up overdose prevention services and expand access to safe prescription alternatives to separate people from toxic street drugs. As well, more outreach teams will be set up to help prevent deaths, save lives and get people in touch with treatment and recovery resources.

Funding will also be used to set up 17 new supervised consumption sites and 12 new inhalation services in communities that need them the most to help reduce the number of people using alone.

The B.C. Government said  42 full-time registered nurses, psychiatric nurses, social workers and peer support workers will be added to 14 new and existing interdisciplinary outreach teams throughout the province.

“Working in groups of three, these workers will help connect people with substance-use challenges, including those who use drugs alone, to treatment, recovery and services that best suit their needs. In addition, these teams will be vital in bringing services to people who may be unable to access services as a result of COVID-19,” said the Provincial Government.

The Province added that teams use a culturally safe, trauma-informed approach to care to engage at-risk individuals who have experienced stigma and discrimination while accessing health care.

“These measures are a huge step in the right direction towards supporting people who use drugs, including the many clients that we serve,” said Katrina Jensen, executive director, AVI Health and Community Services. “This will make a significant difference in enhancing overdose prevention services and increasing access to safe supply, which in turn will help support more people during this challenging time.”