Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C.’s provincial health officer, and Sheila Malcolmson, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, have released the following statement regarding the BC Coroners Service’s report on illicit drug toxicity deaths for December 2021:
“It is with a heavy heart that our province continued to experience an unprecedented number of lives lost to the toxic drug supply in 2021. It is beyond devastating that we lost 2,224 people: our brothers, sisters, children, parents, neighbours and friends to toxic drugs. No words can soften these losses.
“The number of people who died from the toxic drug supply last year is unacceptable and we must do more to prevent this tragic loss of life. While the Province is adding new services and supports to our health-care system each week, B.C. faces a rising tide of need.
“From the COVID-19 pandemic, the toxic drug crises, to heat, floods, and fires, we have never asked as much from our health-care system, front-line health-care workers and B.C. families. And yet, we need to do more.
“We must reduce the fear and shame that leads so many to hide their drug use, avoid services and use deadly drugs alone. Addiction is not a choice, it’s a health condition. That’s why we continue to push Health Canada to approve our exemption so we can implement decriminalization of people who use drugs throughout B.C. This is a vital step to overcoming the stigma and shame associated with using drugs and helping to connect people with the supports they need.
“We know one of the most important ways to keep people alive in this crisis is to ensure a safer supply to replace toxic illicit drugs and the expansion of this life-saving program is now underway across our province.
“Addressing this challenge requires our health-care system and partners to work together. That’s why the Province is working closely with the BC Centre on Substance Use, Doctors of B.C., and Nurses and Nurse Practitioners of BC to also make sure prescribers have the support they need to confidently connect their patients with a safer supply.
“We will continue to make systemic changes to our health-care system to build a comprehensive system of care for those experiencing substance use and mental health challenges.
“There is more to do, and changes can’t happen fast enough, which is why we aren’t stopping until we turn this crisis around.”
Updated actions on the drug poisoning response: https://news.gov.bc.ca/factsheets/escalated-drug-poisoning-response-actions-1
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