B.C.’s overdose death rate is declining in large part because of more effective intervention, including prescription medications to get people off a “poisoned, unregulated drug supply,” Mental Health and Addictions Minister Judy Darcy says.
The 2019 total of 981 deaths from mostly opioid street drugs is down significantly from 1,542 deaths the previous year, due to more overdose reversing kits and a significant increase in prescribed substitutes for the deadly fentanyl and other street opioids, Darcy told reporters at the B.C. legislature Monday.
— Tom Fletcher (@tomfletcherbc) February 24, 2020
Pilot projects to help people get off the streets in Abbotsford and Vernon are also showing results, she said.
“These are pilot projects that involve police working in partnership with a team of peers, people who have used drugs in the past or are still living with addiction but are may be on safe prescription medication,” Darcy said. “And they are connecting people directly to the social supports they need, like housing, as well as treatment and recovery. We have remarkable success so far in Abbotsford. We want to learn from that pilot project and look at how we can expand that across the province.”
While the federal government keeps street drugs illegal under the Controlled Substances Act, Darcy said prescription alternatives have expanded to 3,500 people since the B.C. NDP government took office in 2017. That includes three types of methadone, the traditional heroin substitute, as well as suboxone and hydromorphone, a prescription opioid marketed as Dilaudid among other brands.
A further expansion of B.C.’s injectable opioid drugs program is expected shortly, with the federal government taking part, Darcy said.