Federal government to boost treatment options for opioid drug users: minister

More than 2,800 people died last year as a result of the overdose crisis

Ottawa is planning to boost treatment options for opioid drug users as it tries to deal with what Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor is calling a national public health crisis.

Petitpas Taylor outlined some of the steps the federal government aims to take at a conference Wednesday of the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction.

More than 2,800 people died last year as a result of the crisis and Petitpas Taylor said that number is expected to exceed 3,000 in 2017.

In B.C., more than 1,100 lives have been claimed to overdoses so far this year.

“This situation certainly keeps me up at night,” she said. “These numbers aren’t abstract to me. I know the toll that the opioid crisis is having in our communities such as Vancouver.”

She said the government plans to support pilot projects to provide safer opioid alternatives, such as the pain medication dilaudid, at supervised consumption sites. There are 25 such sites across Canada and locations for the pilots are expected to be announced in a few weeks.

READ MORE: First Nations people in B.C. three times more likely to die of overdose

READ MORE: B.C. launches new drug-checking program, expands fentanyl testing

They will be funded through the federal Substance Use and Addictions Program, which provides $26.3 million in funding a year to tackle substance use issues.

Petitpas Taylor added that she wants to work with provinces and territories to find a better way to establish temporary overdose prevention sites if there’s an urgent need.

“This is an emergency and … sometimes the short-term measures need to be taken to address the reality on the ground,” she said in her speech.

“We are in the midst of a national public health crisis and no one group or government can address it alone.”

Ottawa also aims to hold consultations on removing some of the barriers to obtaining prescription-grade heroin so that users don’t have to visit a hospital several times a day.

“Right now, if you would like to provide prescription-grade heroin, it must be done in a hospital setting. We’re consulting on whether or not we should remove those barriers so that it can be accessed in more places,” said Suzy McDonald, assistant deputy minister in charge of opioid response.

Another plan is to allow drug-checking services to ensure safety at all authorized supervised consumption sites should they want to offer it.

The Liberal government’s most recent budget set aside $100 million over five years to fight the opioid crisis.

Petitpas Taylor announced Wednesday that one-third of that money would be put in a harm reduction fund, which includes efforts to prevent infectious diseases like HIV and hepatitis C amongst intravenous drug users. Part of that fund is also earmarked for the Dr. Peter Centre in Vancouver so that it can provide training to new supervised consumption sites across Canada.

Petitpas Taylor said decriminalization is off the table.

“We are exploring other avenues right now.”

Lauren Krugel, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

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

Just Posted

Unemployment surpasses historic high in Greater Victoria, tourism hit hard

Hospitality and tourism sectors hurting as pandemic continues

Victoria tattoo shops respond to sex assault allegations against male artists

Carne Tattoo and Painted Lotus Studios respond to allegations

Victoria seeks court order to enforce sheltering rules in Beacon Hill Park

People being asked to move out of environmentally sensitive areas of park

Mayor not in favour of low barrier housing at Oak Bay Lodge

Process is already in place to determine future of Oak Bay Lodge

Police watchdog reviewing Victoria police-involved crash

VicPD officer collided with another car in downtown intersection

VIDEO: Langford cat missing 18 months reunited with family

Blue the cat found at Victoria museum 17 kilometres from home

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of July 7

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

POLL: Would you get a vaccine for COVID-19 when it is available?

With the number of positive COVID-19 tests skyrocketing across much of the… Continue reading

VIDEO: Alberta man rescues baby eagle believed to be drowning in East Kootenay lake

Brett Bacon was boating on a lake in Windermere when he spotted the baby eagle struggling in the water

Vancouver Island business ad unintentionally features OK gesture linked to white supremacy

Innocuous ‘OK’ gesture in cleaning franchise advertisement gets flak on social media for ‘supposedly’ promoting white supremacy

Comox Valley RCMP looking for missing woman

Ami Guthrie was last seen in Courtenay in early July

Conservationists raise concerns over state of care for grizzly cubs transferred to B.C. zoo

‘Let them be assessed now before their fate is sealed,’ urges B.C. conservationist Barb Murray

B.C.’s COVID-19 job recovery led by tourism, finance minister says

Okanagan a bright spot for in-province visitor economy

National Kitten Day aka the ‘purrfect’ day to foster a new friend

July 10 marks National Kitten Day, a special day to celebrate all things kittens

Most Read