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More work needed one year after opioid crisis declared: BC's top doctor

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Tough conversations ahead, warns BC's top doctor after marking one year since opioid crisis was declared

Dr. Perry Kendall says Vancouver has done a great job responding drug-related overdoses

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – It was one year ago this week that a public health emergency was declared in BC for the opioid crisis and the provincial health officer says this issue isn’t going away anytime soon.

Dr. Perry Kendall says the City of Vancouver did a great job in its response to the crisis even though the death rate spiked. He believes the positive work with opioid-assisted therapy and relationship with the Vancouver Police Department was offset by the introduction of carfentanil to the market.

Kendall adds this issue is persisting and some tough conversations are in order. “My colleagues who I work with on the joint task force, frankly don’t think we can arrest our way out of this. I’m not sure that we can offer enough treatment to everybody to treat our way out of it either, so I think we need a combination of approaches.”

He says we still need to help people get access to treatment and at least talk about decriminalizing harder drugs to stop tainted drugs from hitting the street.

“Since the fentanyl crisis was declared… over 1,000 people have died from drug overdoses across BC with Vancouver hit the hardest,” says Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson. “Earlier this year the federal government gave $10 million to the BC government to boost their response to the fentanyl overdose crisis, but the province has yet to invest those funds for treatment-on-demand, substitution therapy or clean prescription opioids. The status quo is a disaster — how many more hundreds of lives will be lost, and families impacted, before we see urgent action from the provincial and federal governments to deliver effective health solutions that save lives?”

To date in 2017, the city says there have been 110 overdose deaths in Vancouver, while there were 215 in all of 2016. If rates of overdose deaths continue at this pace, Vancouver could see nearly 400 deaths this year, double the amount recorded in 2016.

Across BC last year 914 drug-related deaths were recorded.