Sheila Malcolmson, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, has released the following statement regarding the BC Coroners Service’s report on illicit drug toxicity deaths for March 2021:
“In March, 158 people lost their lives to a toxic illicit drug supply in B.C. It’s a heartbreaking loss, and we stand with everyone mourning the death of a loved one. Our province is grateful for front-line workers, caregivers, families and peers responding to overdoses and caring for loved ones during two public health emergencies.
“Stigma and criminalization are driving people to use alone, and the pandemic is pushing people further into isolation. The illicit drug supply has become dramatically more toxic and, tragically, more lethal. The effects of two public health emergencies have taken an immense toll. People and communities are hurting, and we will do more to stop this terrible surge of overdose deaths.
“After seeing deaths come down in 2019, we know what public health measures can work. We have continued to accelerate our overdose response over the past four years. In addition to expanding proven, life-saving measures such as overdose prevention services, outreach teams, nurses and making naloxone widely available, we are building up treatment and recovery services, adding new treatment beds around the province and trailblazing first-in-Canada solutions like prescribed safe supply and nurse prescribing.
“Together with our partners, we are building a culturally safe, trauma-informed system of mental health and addictions care that works for everyone in British Columbia. Budget 2021 invests a historic $500 million in people’s mental health and well-being, and aims to turn the tide on the terrible tragedy.”