IN a report released on Wednesday by the BC Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC), 10 recommended areas for action have been identified to help prevent illegal drug overdoses and reduce the number of deaths occurring in the province.
The recommendations, which include measures such as deepening the involvement of people who use drugs when responding to the overdose crisis and addressing the contamination of the street drug supply, are the result of the collaborative work of 130 participants in the 2017 BC Overdose Action Exchange meeting.
The meeting report is available on the BCCDC website.
“The BC Overdose Action Exchange gave people with lived and frontline experience a voice in the fight against the overdose crisis,” said Judy Darcy, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions. “This is the kind of collaboration we will foster in the new Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions, where everyone has a voice. We will be looking at the recommendations closely to determine how they will contribute to our work to implement a seamless system for mental health and addictions in BC.”
First among the recommendations is to engage people who use drugs, known as peers, in consultation and program development. The report recommends increased access to education and training opportunities to support peers in the work they do to address the drug overdose crisis.
The report also recommends funding peer-based organizations that support people who use drugs and provide an avenue for the exchange of knowledge in both urban centres and rural and remote parts of the province.
The second recommendation is to address the contamination of the street drug supply which has taken so many lives. This includes the creation of a new, low-barrier model of prescribing pharmaceutical opioids for people most at risk of overdose, opening additional clinics to provide access to supervised opioid injections and expanding the capacity for drug testing.
“What I heard again and again was that the overdose crisis is about more than just drugs,” said Dr. Mark Tyndall, executive medical director of the BCCDC. “It is a crisis that has a tremendous impact on people – people who live with trauma and addictions, their families, friends and the communities they live in. My sincere hope is that these recommendations will be used to guide our collective actions moving forward.”
The other recommended areas of action are:
- Support appropriate pain management therapies
- Build on the success of overdose prevention sites
- Expand and improve addiction treatment
- Align law enforcement efforts with public health principles
- Reform drug laws
- Address structural barriers and upstream factors
- Counter stigma against people who use drugs
- Create targeted research, surveillance and evaluation initiatives