B.C. enacts ministerial order to create overdose prevention sites

B.C. enacts ministerial order to combat overdoses

The province is doubling down on overdose prevention.

The province is doubling down on overdose prevention.

VANCOUVER — British Columbia has enacted a ministerial order to support the creation of overdose-prevention sites, a move the province’s health minister describes as an “extraordinary measure.”

Terry Lake said the order gives provincial emergency health services and regional health authorities the power to provide overdose-prevention treatment as necessary on an emergency basis.

“We know we were on good legal ground to do that,” Lake told reporters Monday. “Having the ministerial order in place really just makes it a little more solid in terms of any criticism or concern that the federal government might have.”

B.C.’s announcement last week that it would be opening a string of overdose-prevention sites across the province without applying for federal permission has drawn little flak from Ottawa.

Asked Monday about the province’s latest move to combat the deadly opioid crisis, federal Health Minister Jane Philpott described B.C.’s situation as exceptional, pointing out that more than 600 people have fatally overdosed in the province since the beginning of the year.

“It’s very clear that British Columbia is facing extraordinary circumstances,” Philpott said after announcing in Ottawa that the government was changing the law to make it easier to set up supervised-drug-injection sites as part of its approach to fighting a dramatic rise in overdoses across the country.

“Extraordinary realities like that require extraordinary measures. That’s, I suspect, behind the decisions in British Columbia.”

Lake commended the federal government for its action, adding that overdose-prevention sites would hopefully lessen the need for more supervised-injection facilities.

He said Philpott understood why the province felt the need to move forward.

“I said, ‘Jane, we have to save lives. We can’t wait. We have to do something. And she as a physician understood that,” said Lake, who was touring a portable emergency room that has been deployed to Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside to help alleviate pressure on first responders and a nearby hospital.

“She believes in harm reduction. That’s why I think they were working towards the decrease in the barriers to supervised-consumption sites,” he added. “But we simply couldn’t wait.”

B.C.’s ministerial order was enacted on the advice of provincial health officer Dr. Perry Kendall and will last for the duration of the opioid-related public health emergency, Lake said.

Several overdose prevention sites were established in B.C. last week, including three in Vancouver and one in Prince George, with more planned for Victoria and Surrey this week.

The sites allow people to inject illicit drugs while monitored by trained professionals equipped with naloxone, which reverses the effects of opioid overdoses.

Kendall has said supervised-injection sites are different because they are specifically designed for people to inject drugs under medical supervision, to receive training on safe injection and to be linked with health care and addiction services. Supervised-injection sites, like Vancouver’s Insite, have also required an exemption to the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act from the federal government.

— Follow @gwomand on Twitter

Geordon Omand, The Canadian Press

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

Just Posted

The South Surrey and White Rock Chamber of Commerce hosted a COVID-19-related webinar Friday.
Vaccine rollout, supporting local businesses focus of virtual town-hall event

Zoom webinar hosted by South Surrey and White Rock Chamber of Commerce

Curator Colleen Sharpe (left) and cultural exhibits technician John Bessette sit in a new interactive exhibit at the Museum of Surrey. “Dine on Time” tells the story of Surrey’s diner culture from the ’30s to the ’60s. (Photo submitted)
New diner exhibit serves local history at Museum of Surrey

‘Dine on Time’ offers glimpse into Surrey’s 1930s to 1960s diner culture

In a letter to Fraser Health board chair Jim Sinclair and president and CEO Dr. Victoria Lee Jan. 28, Delta Mayor George Harvie pitched the City of Delta become the lease holder of the Harold and Veronica Savage Centre for Supportive Care building after it is vacated by the Delta Hospice Society. (The Canadian Press photo)
Delta Hospice Society must vacate premises by March 29: Fraser Health

The health authority served the society a notice of breach of lease on Feb. 25

This week, in advance of the Canadian Junior Hockey League trade deadline, the Surrey Eagles traded the playing right to Cade Alami to the Prince George Spruce Kings. Alami left the BCHL last month to play in the United States. (Damon James photo)
Surrey Eagles add, subtract from roster as junior-hockey trade deadline passes

With BC Hockey League season still up in air, team makes flurry of moves

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature. (B.C. government)
B.C. reports 10 additional deaths, 395 new COVID-19 cases

The majority of new coronavirus infections were in the Fraser Health region

Bryan Adams with his mom, Jane Adams Clark, at Lions Gate Hospital. (Bryan Adams)
Bryan Adams gives shout out to North Shore hospital

The singer’s mom was in Lions Gate Hospital for care

Shoppers will be able to get their hands on signed bottles of Ryan Reynolds’ new gin at B.C. liquor stores this summer. (Twitter/Ryan Reynolds)
Ryan Reynold’s new Aviation Gin autographed and coming to B.C. stores

This summer 100 bottles will be available to the public for purchase across five B.C. liquor stores

An official investigation will be launched after VPD officers were recorded posing near a dead body at Third Beach on Wednesday morning, Feb. 24. (Screen grab/Zachary Ratcliff)
VIDEO: Vancouver officers under review for allegedly laughing, taking pictures next to dead body

Two officers were caught on video by a local beachgoer Wednesday morning in Stanley Park

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature. (B.C. government)
‘Stay local’: Dr. Henry shoots down spring break travel for British Columbians

B.C. is reportedly working with other provincial governments to determine March break policies

“Our biggest challenge has been the amount of vaccine,” said FNHA acting chief medical officer Dr. Shannon McDonald. (First Nations Health Authority Facebook photo)
All First Nations on reserve to be vaccinated by end of March: First Nations Health Authority

Vaccinations continuing for B.C. First Nations amid shortages

Site C will go ahead, one year later and $5.3 billion more, the NDP announced Feb 26. (BC Hydro image)
B.C. NDP announces Site C will go ahead with new $16B budget

Reviews recommend more oversight, beefed up foundation stability work

The last three wild northern spotted owls live near the Spuzzum Watershed outside of Hope. The province recently ordered a halt to logging for at least a year to give the owls a chance to survive.  (Photo/Jared Hobbs)
Logging halted in northern spotted owl habitat near Hope

Halt will last at least a year, gives time to formulate survival plan for Northern Spotted Owl

Most Read