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B.C. becomes 1st in Canada to launch province-wide prescribed safe drug supply access

Program to include prescription fentanyl patches, as well as injectable and tablet forms of hydromorphone
FILE – A woman holds up a sign bearing a photograph of Morgan Goodridge during a memorial march to remember victims of overdose deaths in Vancouver on Saturday, August 15, 2020. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)

People across B.C. struggling with addiction will soon have access to prescribed safe drugs, amid a deadly and toxic street-level supply that has killed thousands.

The program, which was piloted in 2020, will include access to fentanyl patches, as well as injectable and tablet forms of hydromorphone.

“Today’s policy builds on what we learned from the pandemic,” Addictions Minister Sheila Malcolmson said during a news conference.

“This new policy will help to separate more people from the poisoned supply and to help them connect with support and to stabilize their lives.”

Phase 1 of the rollout will see prescription access in existing programs across the province. The expanded access is backed by $22.6 million over three years, which will be used by the five health authorities to support planning and phased implementation.

This year is shaping up to becoming the worst year in B.C.’s history for toxic drug poisonings, with 851 lives lost between January and May. That’s compared to 569 fatalities during the same time period in 2020, and 654 in 2018 – the first and second deadliest years since toxicity death stats were made public in 2011.

Illicit fentanyl, and drugs such as heroin and cocaine laced with the toxic substance, were found in 85 per cent of deaths so far in 2021. Seventy-five deaths have been linked to illicit carfentanil, an opioid used to tranquilize large animals, such as elephants.

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More to come.


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About the Author: Ashley Wadhwani-Smith

I began my journalistic journey at Black Press Media as a community reporter in my hometown of Maple Ridge, B.C.
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