LETTER: Fraser Health addresses overdose crisis

In 2016, British Columbians faced the public health emergency that is the overdose crisis

Naloxone kits are used to reverse the effects of a potentially deadly overdose.

The following letter from Michael Marchbank, president and CEO of Fraser Health, addresses the ongoing work being done by Fraser Health to combat the overdose crisis in the region.

In 2016, British Columbians faced the public health emergency that is the overdose crisis. As of Nov. 30, 755 people in our province died this year due to an overdose – 259 of those deaths occurring in the Fraser Health region. That’s 259 sons, daughters, partners and friends who have lost their lives to an issue that has impacted our society at all levels.

In our region of 1.8 million people, the overdose crisis has touched all of our communities. How does a health authority manage something like this? We mobilized to develop and execute an aggressive overdose strategy, tackling the problem with multiple approaches, including prevention, harm reduction and treatment.

We combined our efforts in our communities and hospitals. Across our region, 56 sites – including all of our emergency departments and public health units – are now equipped to distribute Take Home Naloxone kits.

By the end of October, we distributed more than 2,300 kits, helping to save countless lives. We also developed and implemented a safe prescription policy for opioid-based medications in all emergency departments across the region.

We have held 17 community forums and naloxone training events in partnership with our municipalities, schools, and the RCMP to prevent overdoses from occurring and to prepare people in case they do.

We’ve launched a multi-phased public education campaign targeting all people who uses substances, and we’ve produced these materials in ways that can be easily shared by schools, media outlets and the public.

In October, we partnered with RainCity Housing and Support Society to develop a regional harm reduction strategy that, among other things, will connect the most vulnerable patients to health and social services and find ways to reduce inappropriately discarded needles in our communities.

We recently announced that we’re proposing two sites for supervised consumption services in Surrey, where we’ve seen the highest number of overdose deaths.  We’re working with the surrounding neighbourhoods and municipal partners to ensure that we produce measurable, positive results.

We know many people with opioid substance use disorders are seeking support to address their addiction and there are often questions as to the most appropriate treatment. Opioid substitution treatment (the prescription of medications such as Suboxone and methadone) is the most effective treatment in reducing use of opioids, improving physical health and reducing death rates.

We’re doubling capacity for opioid substitution treatment at our two sites in Surrey, and we’re enhancing these services in Abbotsford and Maple Ridge.

Over the past 18 months, we’ve opened dozens of substance use treatment beds in our region, and we’re on track to open another 100 beds in 2017. We are also working with our partners to ensure that access to opioid substitution treatment is part of the continuum of care in these residential substance use disorder services.

While our efforts have produced results in our communities, there is more to be done. The public health emergency has impacted us all, and Fraser Health is committed to being at the forefront of creating positive change.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Fraser Valley Bandits advance to CEBL Championship Game

Bandits post comeback 76-75 win over Hamilton Honey Badgers in Saturday’s semifinal

IHIT on scene of suspicious early-morning fire on rural Mission property

Entrance to Gunn Avenue property cordoned off while investigation takes place, updates coming

Public art budgets could be used for gardens, Abbotsford councillor suggests

‘Gardens really are art,’ Coun. Brenda Falk says

SLIDESHOW: Chilliwack firefighters battle large blaze at Rosedale chicken barn Friday

Majority of birds saved but buildings on Castleman Road destroyed by fire

Plainclothes Abbotsford police officer deletes cellphone video after drawing gun on innocent man

‘They never asked me what I was doing there, strictly came out with guns, threatening to shoot me’

53 new COVID-19 cases, no new deaths cap off week of high infection rates in B.C.

Roughly 1,500 people are self-isolating because they either have COVID-19 or have been exposed to it

VIDEO: Internet famous Yukon-based bhangra dancer explores Vancouver Island

Gurdeep Pandher spreads joy through dance, forms cross-cultural connections amid pandemic

Unofficial holidays: the weird and wonderful things people celebrate around the world

On any given day of the year, there are several strange, silly or serious holidays to observe

Moving on: Tanev scores 11 seconds into OT as Canucks oust Wild

Vancouver beats Minnesota 5-4 to move into first round of NHL playoffs

FURTHER UPDATE: Body removed from Maple Ridge hotel after large police presence

A large contingent of Mounties were at the Art Infiniti Hotel Friday afternoon and evening

Gene editing debate takes root with organic broccoli, new UBC research shows

Broccoli is one of the best-known vegetables with origins in this scientific haze

VIDEO: U.S. Air Force pilot does fly-by for B.C. son amid COVID border separation

Sky-high father-son visit plays out over White Rock Pier

3 Vancouver police officers test positive for COVID after responding to large party

Union president says other officers are self-isolating due to possible exposure

New mothers with COVID-19 should still breastfeed: Canada’s top doctor

Dr. Theresa Tam made the recommendation during World Breastfeeding Awareness Week

Most Read