The province says more people in B.C. will soon have access to life-saving overdose prevention, treatment and supports.

All told, $10.5 million is going towards accelerating the response to an increasingly toxic illicit drug supply due to COVID-19.

“There have been devastating consequences for people who use substances during dual public health emergencies,” said Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, Judy Darcy. 

“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.”

According to the province, the funding “will help scale up overdose prevention services, expand access to safe prescription alternatives to separate people from toxic street drugs and add new outreach teams to help prevent overdose deaths, save lives and connect more people to treatment and recovery throughout B.C.

To reduce the number of people using alone, the province says the funding will also be used to open 17 new supervised consumption services and 12 new inhalation services in communities hit hardest by the overdose crisis.

Forty-two new 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  heir 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.

“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.”

Expanding overdose prevention services and connecting people to treatment and supports is an integral part of A Pathway to Hope, B.C’s roadmap for making mental health and addictions care better for people in British Columbia.

To learn more about A Pathway to Hope, click here