B.C. steps up drug overdose response, seeks federal help [with VIDEO]

Task force created, Ottawa under pressure to act to restrict pill presses, unchecked importation of small packages of fentanyl

Packaged fentanyl seized by Calgary Police.




A new overdose response task force has been created by the B.C. government as officials step up their attempts to reduce the surge in deaths from illicit drug use.

Provincial health officer Dr. Perry Kendall and director of police services Clayton Pecknold will head the task force, which is to provide expert leadership and advice to the province on what more can be done.

B.C. Premier Christy Clark is also urging the federal government to take action.

“While we are leading the country in addressing this issue, families are still losing loved ones to senseless and tragic drug overdoses,” she said.

RELATED: Drug overdose deaths surge 74 per cent so far in 2016 Drug consumption sites to be part of Fraser strategy on overdoses

The province wants Ottawa to make it easier to quickly create new supervised consumption sites in B.C.

Clark is also urging the federal government to restrict access to pill presses and tableting machines, which currently are legal to possess.

B.C. also wants the feds to tighten control of precursor materials to make fentanyl, create escalating charges for importing and trafficking the often-deadly synthetic opioid, and ensure Canada Border Services Agency has the right tools to detect incoming fentanyl.

Health Minster Terry Lake said fentanyl can be ordered over the internet and delivered by mail in small packages under 30 grams that the CBSA is powerless to open.

“Because this is such a powerful drug, it doesn’t take very much in order to make the pills that we see on the street today,” he said.

Packages of fentanyl seized by Calgary Police.

Fentanyl is much more powerful than heroin and is believed to be arriving from Asia, usually in powdered form before being pressed into pills here. Users often believe they are taking something else, such as oxycontin, ecstasy or cocaine that turn out to be laced with more potent fentanyl.

A testing service is to be set up to help people find out if their drugs are contaminated with unexpected substances, such as fentanyl.

There were 371 drug overdose deaths in the first half of the year, a dramatic increase that prompted the declaration of a public health emergency earlier this spring. About 60 per cent of the deaths have been tied to fentanyl.

Provincial partners have been actively distributing take-home naloxone kits that can be used to reverse an overdose – more than 10,000 of the kits have been distributed so far in B.C.

As of July 1, it’s become easier for doctors to prescribe Suboxone to treat opioid addiction.

Fraser Health earlier this month said it would identify priority locations for new supervised injection or consumption sites in Surrey and potentially other drug-troubled urban areas in the region, and work with local municipalities to secure support.

A report from a recent meeting on potential overdose responses released by the B.C. Centre for Disease Control says expansion of supervised sites beyond Vancouver is “urgent” in view of the overdose epidemic and federal legislation created by the former Conservative federal government that encumbers the process of permitting new sites is a “significant barrier to rapid expansion of these services.”

Participants at the overdose response meeting recommended creating mobile sites as well as safe consumption rooms at every homeless shelter.

There are so far no supervised drug use sites in the Fraser Health region.

There have been more overdose deaths in Fraser – 114 in the first six months of the year  – than any other region of the province, and Fraser also accounts for the most fentanyl-linked deaths so far this year.

Just Posted

VIDEO: Saanich resident shocked when trespasser licks security camera, rummages through mail

‘I found the situation really bizarre,’ said the Gordon Head resident

BC Ferries crew member taken to hospital after getting struck by bow doors

Two sailings between Horseshoe Bay and Departure Bay were cancelled

Bulk or boxed candy? Trick-or-treat maps help Canadian families prepare for Halloween

Census Mapper uses 2016 census data to predict busiest neighbourhoods

Black Press Media celebrates women who are making a difference

Helping others is the cornerstone of the work Shannon Drew does in… Continue reading

Goldstream Food Bank on the search to fill Christmas Hampers with toys

Volunteers are looking for new toys for infants to 11-year-olds

VIDEO: Explosion, fire sends woman running from Saanich home

Heavy smoke in the area, crews on scene

Jack’s Devils beat Quinn’s Canucks 1-0 in NHL brother battle

New Jersey youngster scores first career goal against Vancouver

Two charged after owner’s wild ride through Kamloops in his stolen truck

Crystal Rae Dorrington, 37, and Derrick Ronald Pearson, 32, facing multiple charges

Judge orders credit union’s bank records for Kelowna social worker facing theft allegations

The man is accused of negligence, breach of contract, fraud and a conspiracy with Interior Savings

Leaders pour it on with rallies, boosts for candidates as campaign reaches peak

The federal election campaign has reached a crescendo

Allegations of racism lead to ministry investigation at Vancouver private school

St. George’s School was contacted over what the school describes as ‘deeply offensive behaviour online’

Not a political question: Thunberg calls for climate action in Alberta

Edmonton police estimated the size of the crowd at about 4,000

Zantac, the over-the-counter heartburn drug, pulled in Canada, U.S.

Health Canada also investigates possible carcinogen in some ranitidine drugs

B.C. public safety minister says cannabis edibles not in stores til January

Mike Farnworth says he wants regional issues considered when it comes to licensing

Most Read