B.C. launches emergency response centre to curb overdose deaths

Minister of Mental Health and Addictions Judy Darcy says centre to connect provincial, local teams

The provincial government is launching a multi-tiered overdose emergency response centre to better connect regional and local social workers, health authorities, first responders and others.

On Friday, Mental Health and Addictions Minister Judy Darcy announced the centre will be located out of the Vancouver General Hospital, seeing as the city has the highest number of overdose deaths.

Between January and September this year, more than 1,100 people have died of an overdose in B.C., compared to 981 in 2016, and 519 in 2015.

“We are escalating our response, not just to prevent overdose deaths today, but to get at the very heart of the crisis so that no one has to lose another loved one,” Darcy said.

Led by Vancouver Coastal Health chief medical health officer Dr. Patricia Daly, the facility will be made up of experts and full-time health staff in Vancouver, with five regional teams implemented at each health authority.

New teams will be in place by January, Darcy added, in communities identified as having most urgent need.

Overdose deaths by city

The teams will focus on four priorities: expanding harm reduction through more access to treatment and housing, increasing access to Naloxone and training, implementing more drug testing systems at overdose prevention centres, and offering more drug substitution programs.

Currently, only 200 people have access to drug substitution programs, all located within the Downtown Eastside.

In November, Darcy announced two pilot projects: a new drug-checking program at a Vancouver overdose prevention centre, and expanding the supply of fentanyl test strips across B.C.

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