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.

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.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The family of Iris McNeil, shown here with members of her family, has launched a petition to deny parole for the man who murdered McNeil in 1997. (Family photo)
Family fights killer’s release from Metchosin institution

Shortreed serving an indeterminate sentence at William Head Institution

A driver stopped by Saanich police following a road rage incident on April 15 was found to be impaired, in violation of a license restriction and in a damaged vehicle. They received a 90-day driving prohibition and a 30-day vehicle impound. (Saanich Police Traffic Safety Unit/Twitter)
Driver stopped on Pat Bay Highway after road rage reports fails breathalyzer test: police

Several witnesses reported driver to Saanich police, school officer intercepted

North Saanich Municipal Hall. The District released its annual report last week. (Peninsula News Review)
Pig shelter at Sandown Agricultural Lands comes down

North Saanich warned centre of stop-work order and possible fine

Victoria’s property tax policy for 2021 will save business owners a little money. (Jane Skrypnek/News Staff)
Victoria gives businesses a tax break for 2021

Council decreases tax burden to support pandemic-hit merchants

Rainbow trouts thrashing with life as they’re about to be transferred to the largest lake of their lives, even though it’s pretty small. These rainbows have a blue tinge because they matched the blue of their hatchery pen, but soon they’ll take on the green-browns of their new home at Lookout Lake. (Zoe Ducklow/News Staff)
VIDEO: Lookout Lake stocked with hatchery trout to delight of a seniors fishing club

The Cherish Trout Scouts made plans to come back fishing soon

Eight-year-old Piper and her family were raising money to help Guinevere, the bearded dragon, get a gynecological surgery. Sadly, the reptile didn’t survive the procedure. (Jackee Sullivan/Special to Langley Advance Times)
Lizard fails to survive surgery, GoFundMe dollars help Langley family offset medical bills

Guinevere, a pet bearded dragon, underwent an ovariectomy on Tuesday

B.C. Premier John Horgan wears a protective face mask to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. Premier John Horgan booked to get AstraZeneca shot Friday

‘Let’s show all British Columbians that the best vaccine is the one that’s available to you now,’ he said

Doses of the Moderna COVID‑19 vaccine in a freezer trailer, to be transported to Canada during the COVID-19 pandemic. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Canada’s incoming supply of Moderna vaccine slashed in half through end of April

Moderna plans to ship 650,000 doses of its vaccine to Canada by the end of the month, instead of the expected 1.2 million

Dr. Bonnie Henry speaks about the province’s COVID-19 vaccine plans during a news conference at the legislature in Victoria. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
P.1 variant likely highest in B.C. due to more testing for it: Dr. Henry

Overall, just under 60% of new daily cases in the province involve variants

(Black Press Media file photo)
POLL: Do you have a plan in place in the event of a tsunami?

Tsunamis have claimed the lives of more than 250,000 people between 1998… Continue reading

Anyone with information on any of these individuals is asked to call 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or visit the website victoriacrimestoppers.ca for more information.
Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of April 13

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

The District of Sooke will continue to flower with Communities in Bloom. (Pixabay)
Sooke will bud but not bloom in provincial competition

Council scales back participation in Communities in Bloom

An armed officer walks outside Cerwydden Care on Cowichan Lake Road near Skinner Road Wednesday, April 14 around 5:30 p.m. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)
Police standoff at Duncan apartment ends peacefully

Officers surround building as homeowner held in apartment for nearly four hours by adult son

Most Read