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Union Recognizes Five-Year Anniversary of Opioid Crisis as Public Health Emergency

  • Bulletin
​BCNU joins advocates in calling for improved access to safe supply and treatment, and the decriminalization of people who use drugs

BCNU is marking the five-year anniversary of the declaration of the opioid crisis as a public health emergency in British Columbia by calling for government to take immediate action to help save lives.

On April 14, 2016, BC’s provincial health officer (PHO) declared a public health emergency due to a significant increase in opioid-related overdose deaths. Since that time, the number of people who have died from drug toxicity in BC has risen tragically and dramatically. Last year, 1,716 people died from drug toxicity in BC – a 74 percent increase over the number of deaths recorded in 2019 (984). 

The increase in drug toxicity deaths that has occurred since the COVID-19 pandemic began has highlighted the urgent need for more effective solutions. This includes investments in harm reduction services like safe consumption sites, better access to safe supply such as prescribed pharmaceutical alternatives, province-wide investments in mental health, treatment and recovery services, and ending the criminalization of people who use drugs.

BCNU is joining Canadian advocacy group Moms Stop the Harm in calling for more action from all levels of government to address the crisis. The group is a network of Canadian families impacted by substance-use related harms and deaths. It is calling for an “end to the failed war on drugs through evidence-based prevention, treatment and policy change.”

Moms Stop the Harm members in BC have been writing letters to MLAs to request that this issue be brought to the legislature on April 14. Members can learn more by visiting the Moms Stop the Harm website

BCNU is also helping promote the re-release this month of Bevel Up, an important educational resource for community nurses and other point-of-care health-care workers confronting drug toxicity deaths. Members are encouraged to check out the professional learning resource here

Visit the BC Centre for Substance Use 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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