B.C. enacts ministerial order to create overdose prevention sites

B.C. enacts ministerial order to combat overdoses

The province is doubling down on overdose prevention.

VANCOUVER — British Columbia has enacted a ministerial order to support the creation of overdose-prevention sites, a move the province’s health minister describes as an “extraordinary measure.”

Terry Lake said the order gives provincial emergency health services and regional health authorities the power to provide overdose-prevention treatment as necessary on an emergency basis.

“We know we were on good legal ground to do that,” Lake told reporters Monday. “Having the ministerial order in place really just makes it a little more solid in terms of any criticism or concern that the federal government might have.”

B.C.’s announcement last week that it would be opening a string of overdose-prevention sites across the province without applying for federal permission has drawn little flak from Ottawa.

Asked Monday about the province’s latest move to combat the deadly opioid crisis, federal Health Minister Jane Philpott described B.C.’s situation as exceptional, pointing out that more than 600 people have fatally overdosed in the province since the beginning of the year.

“It’s very clear that British Columbia is facing extraordinary circumstances,” Philpott said after announcing in Ottawa that the government was changing the law to make it easier to set up supervised-drug-injection sites as part of its approach to fighting a dramatic rise in overdoses across the country.

“Extraordinary realities like that require extraordinary measures. That’s, I suspect, behind the decisions in British Columbia.”

Lake commended the federal government for its action, adding that overdose-prevention sites would hopefully lessen the need for more supervised-injection facilities.

He said Philpott understood why the province felt the need to move forward.

“I said, ‘Jane, we have to save lives. We can’t wait. We have to do something. And she as a physician understood that,” said Lake, who was touring a portable emergency room that has been deployed to Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside to help alleviate pressure on first responders and a nearby hospital.

“She believes in harm reduction. That’s why I think they were working towards the decrease in the barriers to supervised-consumption sites,” he added. “But we simply couldn’t wait.”

B.C.’s ministerial order was enacted on the advice of provincial health officer Dr. Perry Kendall and will last for the duration of the opioid-related public health emergency, Lake said.

Several overdose prevention sites were established in B.C. last week, including three in Vancouver and one in Prince George, with more planned for Victoria and Surrey this week.

The sites allow people to inject illicit drugs while monitored by trained professionals equipped with naloxone, which reverses the effects of opioid overdoses.

Kendall has said supervised-injection sites are different because they are specifically designed for people to inject drugs under medical supervision, to receive training on safe injection and to be linked with health care and addiction services. Supervised-injection sites, like Vancouver’s Insite, have also required an exemption to the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act from the federal government.

— Follow @gwomand on Twitter

Geordon Omand, The Canadian Press

Just Posted

Abbotsford parents invited to anti-gang education session

Presenters to discern myth from reality, offer warning signs that youths are getting into gangs

Welcome to 89 years at the same Abbotsford address

Philip Sheffield lunch brings past students together one more time

Abbotsford firefighters knock down house fire before it can spread

No one believed to be inside structure at the time of the fire on Clayburn Road Saturday morning

Abbotsford youths grill mayor on environmental policy at rally

Local youths continued climate strike as worldwide action takes place in hundreds of cities

Stolen stamp collection has been returned to owners in Abbotsford

Good Samaritan found the stamps hidden away in some bushes and turned them over to police

Police release photos of suspect in daytime sex assault at Vancouver woman’s home

A young woman, in hers 20s, was followed home by the man, before he violently attacked her inside

Kamloops girl, 9, recovering from carbon monoxide poisoning now out of ICU

Her mother who was sleeping in the same tent with her did not survive

UPDATE: Surrey RCMP say boy, 11, missing for two days found safe

Dominic Mattie was last seen at 5 p.m. in the 13500-block of Gateway Drive in Surrey

‘I think he’s still alive’: B.C. mom pleads for help finding son last seen a month ago

Family offering $5,000 reward for information leading to the safe return of Tim Delahaye

New poll suggests one-third don’t want politicians to wear religious symbols

Local politicians shouldn’t be allowed to wear hijabs, crucifixes or turbans on the job, survey suggests

Raptors fans far from home adjust plans to watch pivotal playoff game

Raptors currently lead the playoff series 3-2, and a win Saturday would vault them into NBA finals

PHOTOS: First responders in Fernie rescue baby owl who fell from nest

The baby owl’s inability to fly back to its nest prompted a rescue by first responders

Five takeaways from the Court of Appeal ruling on B.C.’s pipeline law

It’s unclear how many tools are left in B.C.’s toolbox to fight the project

Burnaby facility to dispose of 1,500 tonnes of Canada’s trash from Philippines

All 103 containers will be disposed of properly within Canada before the end of the summer

Most Read