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BC Nurses’ Union Recognizes Five-Year Anniversary of the Opioid Crisis as Public Health Emergency

  • News Release
Calls for urgent government action grow as nurses continue to provide care on the frontlines of the opioid crisis

​The BC Nurses’ Union is observing the five-year anniversary since the province declared the opioid crisis as a public health emergency and is offering its condolences to the friends and family members of the thousands who have tragically lost their lives.

BCNU has been an advocate for preventive health care policies long before the province declared the opioid crisis a public health emergency in 2016.

President Christine Sorensen is calling on the government to take immediate steps to address the tragic loss of life occurring daily throughout the province.

“BC’s nurses see the effects of the toxic drug supply public health emergency every day, including during the COVID-19 pandemic,” says Sorensen. “They continue to work tirelessly to provide care while this province manages two public health emergencies. It’s time the government provides more effective solutions to address this epidemic.”

BCNU is calling for increased 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.

There have been steps in the right direction. BCNU recently welcomed a new provincial public health order that authorizes registered nurses and registered psychiatric nurses to prescribe pharmaceutical alternatives to toxic street drugs, to separate more people from the poisoned street drug supply to save lives. Two years ago, BC’s provincial health officer released a report calling for the decriminalization of people who use drugs. BCNU is entirely in agreement with the recommendations in the report.

Tragically, more than 1,700 lives were lost in 2020 due to toxic drugs and the crisis has only worsened in 2021. The first two months of 2021 saw a record number of drug toxicity deaths. According to the provincial government’s current numbers, so far this year, 88 percent of drug toxicity deaths occurred inside (58 per cent in private residences and 30 percent in other residences including social and supportive housing, SROs, shelters, and hotels and other indoor locations).

“Harm reduction is an important emergency response, but it fails to address the toxicity of the drug supply or reframe the way drug use is approached,” says Sorensen. “Decriminalization is the only long-term approach that will save lives and stop the devastating toll this crisis is having on communities across BC and the country.”

Media Contact Katharine Kitts, BCNU Communications
Tel: 604-220-9815 | Email:

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