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.

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

Just Posted

RCMP investigate two shootings in Surrey

Incidents happened in Whalley, Newton

Surrey Board of Trade fears SkyTrain expansion will impede other transit needs

‘We need transit improvements in all of Surrey,’ Anita Huberman says

Surrey RCMP, firefighters support Cloverdale boy’s lonely lemonade stand

Parker, 7, had few takers until Surrey first responders heard his call

North Delta Secondary teacher up for B.C. education award

Prabhjot Grewal is up for a Premier’s Award for Excellence in Education in the Outstanding New Teacher category

Rich the Vegan scoots across Canada for the animals

Rich Adams is riding his push scooter across Canada to bring awareness to the dog meat trade in Asia

Recall: Certain Pacific oysters may pose threat of paralytic shellfish poisoning

Consumers urged to either return affected packages or throw them out

How a Kamloops-born man helped put us on the moon

Jim Chamberlin did troubleshooting for the Apollo program, which led to its success

Sexual harassment complaints soaring amid ‘frat boy culture’ in Canada’s airline industry

‘It’s a #MeToo dumpster fire…and it’s exhausting for survivors’

How much do you know about the moon?

To mark the 50th anniversary of the first lunar landing, see how well you know space

Body, burning truck found near northern B.C. town

RCMP unsure if the two separate discoveries are related

Former Fernie Ghostrider re-signs with Vancouver Canucks

Josh Teves has signed a two-year contract with the NHL team

Couple found dead along northern B.C. highway in double homicide

Woman from the U.S. and man from Australia found dead near Liard Hot Springs

Most Read

l -->