Federal government to boost treatment options for opioid drug users: minister

More than 2,800 people died last year as a result of the overdose crisis

Ottawa is planning to boost treatment options for opioid drug users as it tries to deal with what Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor is calling a national public health crisis.

Petitpas Taylor outlined some of the steps the federal government aims to take at a conference Wednesday of the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction.

More than 2,800 people died last year as a result of the crisis and Petitpas Taylor said that number is expected to exceed 3,000 in 2017.

In B.C., more than 1,100 lives have been claimed to overdoses so far this year.

“This situation certainly keeps me up at night,” she said. “These numbers aren’t abstract to me. I know the toll that the opioid crisis is having in our communities such as Vancouver.”

She said the government plans to support pilot projects to provide safer opioid alternatives, such as the pain medication dilaudid, at supervised consumption sites. There are 25 such sites across Canada and locations for the pilots are expected to be announced in a few weeks.

READ MORE: First Nations people in B.C. three times more likely to die of overdose

READ MORE: B.C. launches new drug-checking program, expands fentanyl testing

They will be funded through the federal Substance Use and Addictions Program, which provides $26.3 million in funding a year to tackle substance use issues.

Petitpas Taylor added that she wants to work with provinces and territories to find a better way to establish temporary overdose prevention sites if there’s an urgent need.

“This is an emergency and … sometimes the short-term measures need to be taken to address the reality on the ground,” she said in her speech.

“We are in the midst of a national public health crisis and no one group or government can address it alone.”

Ottawa also aims to hold consultations on removing some of the barriers to obtaining prescription-grade heroin so that users don’t have to visit a hospital several times a day.

“Right now, if you would like to provide prescription-grade heroin, it must be done in a hospital setting. We’re consulting on whether or not we should remove those barriers so that it can be accessed in more places,” said Suzy McDonald, assistant deputy minister in charge of opioid response.

Another plan is to allow drug-checking services to ensure safety at all authorized supervised consumption sites should they want to offer it.

The Liberal government’s most recent budget set aside $100 million over five years to fight the opioid crisis.

Petitpas Taylor announced Wednesday that one-third of that money would be put in a harm reduction fund, which includes efforts to prevent infectious diseases like HIV and hepatitis C amongst intravenous drug users. Part of that fund is also earmarked for the Dr. Peter Centre in Vancouver so that it can provide training to new supervised consumption sites across Canada.

Petitpas Taylor said decriminalization is off the table.

“We are exploring other avenues right now.”

Lauren Krugel, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Charity the name of the game for Crofton slo-pitch tournament participants

Crofton Fire Department event benefits three recipients

Cowichan Crime Stoppers Most Wanted

Do you know where these individuals are?

Western Forest Products strike on Vancouver Island in its third week

Union says company doesn’t agree to mediator Vince Ready, Western counters that isn’t the case

Federation of Labour supports striking forestry workers

Calls for a “hot edict” on Western Forest Products

‘Bad choices make good stories’: Margaret Trudeau brings her show to Just for Laughs

Trudeau says over the decades she has been suicidal, manic, depressed

Garneau ‘disappointed’ in airlines’ move against new passenger bill of rights

New rules codified compensation for lost luggage, overbooked flights

Mercury tops out on top of the world: Alert in Nunavut warmer than Victoria

It’s the latest anomaly in what’s been a long, hot summer across the Arctic

Canadian is detained in China on drug allegations: Chinese government

Detention of a Canadian in China comes as part a diplomatic dispute triggered by arrest of Huawei exec Meng Wanzhou

Rare white ravens spotted again in mid-Island

Nature photographer Mike Yip said mysterious birds back in Coombs area

CO’s call off efforts to trap bear who attacked North Island man

Woss man recuperating after incident on remote logging road

Too much time on social media can hurt teens’ mental health: study

Researchers conducted a four-year survey of more than 3,800 adolescents between Grades 7 and 11

Advocates want charges in horse deaths during Calgary Stampede chuckwagon races

Chuckwagon races are a nightly spectacle during the Stampede, a 10-day annual celebration of western life

ICBC insurance renewals get more complicated this year

Crash history, driver risk prompt more reporting requirements

Most Read