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83 new recovery beds to open in B.C.; 97 private beds now publicly funded

The province reported a record-breaking 2,511 overdose deaths in 2023
Jennifer Whiteside, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, speaks at the Coast Hotel in Chilliwack following the release of the BC Coroners Service year-end report on illicit drug toxicity deaths on Wednesday, Jan. 24, 2024. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)

The province has announced a “record expansion” of treatment and recovery beds.

Premier David Eby announced the 180 beds, which 97 of those are already open in several communities, in Vancouver on Thursday (Jan. 25). He said the expansion is nearly double B.C.’s 2023 budget commitment to open approximately 100 publicly funded beds throughout the province.

“People need to be able to access treatment and recovery services close to where they live, without worrying about how to pay for it.”

Eby said the reason the government was able to move so quickly to open the first 97 beds was due to a change in funding. The beds were previously privately funded. The remaining 83 beds are set to launch in the summer.

Mental Health and Addictions Minister Jennifer Whiteside said that by expanding access to addiction treatment beds across B.C., it allows for more options for lifesaving care that people need on their recovery journey.

“When people take the courageous step to reach out for help, they need to be met with the right care at the right time, close to home.”

READ MORE: 2023 was the worst year for fatal toxic drug poisonings in B.C. history

The announcement comes the day after B.C.’s chief coroner Lisa Lapointe gave a stark ultimatum in her update on the 2023 overdose deaths.

“We can take measures to save lives, or we can continue to count the dead.”

The province saw a record-breaking number of overdose deaths in 2023 for a total of 2,511.

Lapointe said that unless government officials are “are willing to act thoughtfully, carefully and with courage to provide a safer supply for the tens of thousands of people at risk in our province, we will continue to count the dead, more people will suffer and more families will grieve.”

Experts have estimated that about 225,000 people in B.C. use unregulated drugs, while 100,000 of those have opioid-use disorder.

She said the current treatment and safer supply models are not able to address the scale of the crisis, and the services are not there. She also questioned the lack of data around treatment beds.

“One million people in our province don’t have access to a family doctor, nevermind the focused and specialized expertise needed to address the public health emergency of this magnitude.”

Eby said the province is working on a system to improve the metrics around treatment beds for British Columbians, adding that part of Thursday’s funding announcement was about collecting the data the coroner wants.

“We are simultaneously building the treatment beds, a system to measure the efficacy of those treatment beds, the centralized system to be able to refer people to those beds and it is, as you might imagine, building all these things at the same time. They all move forward at different rates.”

Lauren Collins

About the Author: Lauren Collins

I'm a provincial reporter for Black Press Media's national team, after my journalism career took me across B.C. since I was 19 years old.
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