The opioid overdose crisis continues to be one of the most serious public health crises in Canada’s recent history. Tragically, in many communities, the COVID-19 pandemic is worsening this crisis. The Government of Canada continues to support communities across Canada as they respond to drug overdoses and harms during the pandemic.
Today, the Honourable Patty Hajdu, Minister of Health, along with the Honourable Judy Darcy, B.C. Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, and Dr. Richard Stanwick, Chief Medical Health Officer, Island Health, announced approximately $2 million in funding for a pilot project within Island Health. The innovative project will provide pharmaceutical-grade medication as an alternative to the toxic illegal drug supply for people in Cowichan Valley who have not responded to other forms of treatment for opioid use disorder.
This project will allow selected patients at risk of overdose to have access to hydromorphone tablets from a licensed prescriber at the Cowichan Valley Wellness and Recovery Centre. The patients will also receive critical wrap-around services, such as peer support, medical care, mental health support and a personal support plan. This project is a four-year pilot that will provide valuable evidence to support the development of best practices for safer supply programs.
Expanding access to safer supply pilot projects, such as this one, is one way Health Canada and the province are helping to save lives and improve health outcomes. The Government of Canada and British Columbia also continues to support critical harm reduction, treatment, housing and other services for people who use drugs or who are in recovery. Canada’s overdose crisis requires collaboration from all levels of government, partners, stakeholders, people with lived and living experience, and organizations in communities across the country.
“It has never been more important to provide harm reduction and treatment services to people who use drugs. It is devastating to see that the pandemic has worsened the situation for Canadians struggling with substance use disorders in many parts of country, including Vancouver Island communities in British Columbia. Providing a safer alternative to street drugs will save lives and help people in Cowichan Valley access treatment and other supports.”
The Honourable Patty Hajdu, Minister of Health
“We know that providing safe prescription alternatives to the highly toxic and illegal drug supply is critical to stabilize people who are at great risk. We’re thrilled that this project will build on the work our government has been doing to separate people who use substances from the increasingly toxic street supply and give them the best chance to find their own pathway to healing and recovery.”
The Honourable Judy Darcy, B.C. Minister of Mental Health and Addictions
“This medication option will provide a life-saving alternative to the contaminated drug supply that is driving our drug poisoning crisis. The recent increase in overdose deaths in communities within Island Health shows a clear need for better access to a safer drug supply.”
Dr. Richard Stanwick, Chief Medical Health Officer, Island Health
Office of the Honourable Patty Hajdu
Minister of Health
Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions: