The BC Nurses' Union is welcoming a new public health order announced this week that authorizes registered nurses and registered psychiatric nurses to prescribe pharmaceutical alternatives to toxic street drugs in order to separate more people from the poisoned street drug supply to save lives.
Expanding nurses' scope of practice is one part of the solution to addressing the opioid crisis, especially as deaths from overdoses continue to climb. However, there are many questions regarding the "new nursing standards" that are included in the order, as well as what the training and education requirements will look like for nurses.
This week's announcement is an emergency measure. There is still a need for long-term investments in mental health and substance use care to build a system where providers feel supported and people get the care they need.
BCNU has been an advocate for preventive health care policies long before the province declared the opioid crisis a public health emergency in 2016. The tragic spike in overdose deaths that have occurred since the COVID-19 pandemic began has highlighted the urgent need for effective solutions to the crisis.
We will continue to update members on information regarding this order as it becomes available.
In the meantime, visit the BC Centre for Substance Use (BCCSU) website for support about prescribing and dispensing, or call the BCCSU 24/7 Addiction Medicine Clinician Support Line to speak to an addiction medicine specialist: 778-945-7619.
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