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Overdose task force created amid BC's public health emergency

Last Updated Aug 8, 2016 at 1:49 pm PST

(Kenny Mason, NEWS 1130, Photo)

The premier is asking the federal government to restrict the use of pill presses, tablet machines

There has been a 74 per cent increase in overdoses between January and June of this year

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – It’s being called the worst overdose crisis in the province’s history.

The BC Government is setting up a task force to deal with the opioid epidemic in this province.

This comes after a 74 per cent increase in the amount of overdose deaths in the province. More than 370 people have died in the first six months of 2016.

Amid the ongoing public health emergency, Premier Christy Clark says a joint task force led by BC’s chief medical health officer and director of police services will aim to get deadly drugs like fentanyl off the streets.

“That scope is alarming. It’s frightening and it’s something that all of us should be concerned about,” says Clark.

“Their job will be to identify and recommend actions that we can take to prevent and respond to overdoses in BC and they’ll have two main goals: to get those deadly drugs off our streets and to get people the help they need. We’re going to improve access to treatment through our opioid substitution treatment program and we’re also going to provide access to recovery for people who use drugs and want to stop.”

The government will also work to establish a testing service to help people find out of their drugs are tainted following several warnings from local police.

Health Minister Terry Lake says there is a way that dealers are able to traffic drugs without being detected. “It seems clear that fentanyl can be ordered over the internet and delivered in very small quantities that escape inspection by Canada Border Services. Anything under, I believe, 30 grams cannot be opened currently.”

Lake used a specific analogy for the problem with drugs like Fentanyl.

“If this was SARS or Ebola, Health Canada, border security and immigration would all be focused on this as a health issue that is essentially like a pandemic.”

Clark says this problem can impact every community and any family in BC. She has some requests from the Federal government.

“To restrict access to pill presses, to restrict access to tableting machines, to pursue stronger penalties, escalated charges on those who import and traffic fentanyl.”