Opioid Crisis

Capital RD

Whereas it is understood that opioid addictions continue to cause an ever growing record number of heart breaking deaths and debilitations across the country; And whereas while we understand the Government of Canada and the Province of British Columbia have recognized these impacts, it remains critically important to advocate for a national public health emergency through the municipal voices provided by the Union of British Columbia Municipalities UBCM and the Federation of Canadian Municipalities FCM: Therefore be it resolved that UBCM requests the Government of Canada and the Province of British Columbia declare the overdose crisis a national public health emergency and develop appropriate comprehensive, holistic Pan-Canadian overdose action plans that include the legislative and funding frameworks for decriminalization, de-stigmatization, safe supply, suitable medical treatments and thereby function to holistically address the opioid crisis, mental health issues and their connections to homelessness and overdose deaths in local governments across Canada.

Provincial Response

Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions The Government of BC is working closely with the Government of Canada on a number of jurisdictional issues related to the federal Controlled Drugs and Substances Act to identify shared priorities and opportunities to collaboratively address the ongoing drug toxicity crisis. BCs Provincial Health Officer declared a public health emergency in 2016 due to rising illicit drug toxicity deaths, and the Government of BC is supportive of all action at a federal level to continue to address drug toxicity crisis in partnership. BC has moved away from urging the federal government to declare the toxic drug crisis a national public health emergency. The Emergencies Act formerly known as the War Measures Act and under which a national public health emergency would be declared, is intended to provide a short-term response and to provide authority and capacity to respond which is beyond that which the province has. It has never been used, including in response to COVID-19. The legislation is not set up for this type of long-term public health emergency and would offer us no advantages, such as new resources. Since 2017, the Government of BC has accelerated its response to the toxic drug crisis by investing a total of 938 million to expand existing services and add new resources across the full spectrum of substance use care. A Pathway to Hope, released by the Government of BC in 2019, sets the 10-year vision for a new system of mental health and substance use care, with an emphasis on prevention, promotion, early intervention and integrated services, that builds on existing initiatives and implements new, innovative approaches. On March 26, 2020, the Government of BC released new clinical guidance in direct response to the COVID-19 pandemic to help reduce the risks to people who use substances and the disproportionate harms caused to substance users by the need to isolate and quarantine to stem the spread of the virus. Risk Mitigation in the Context of Dual Public Health Emergencies works to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission and infection, while outlining steps prescribers, pharmacists, and care teams can take to support people who use substances through the provision of safe prescription alternatives to illicit drugs and telemedicine for clinical assessments. On April 14, 2021, the Government of BC announced it will request a federal exemption from Health Canada to decriminalize personal possession of drugs in the province to remove the shame that often prevents people from reaching out for life-saving help. BC is working with partners on this application and the Solicitor General sent a letter to police chiefs asking police to focus on more serious crimes and align more with harm-reduction principles. On July 15, 2021, the BC Government released a first in Canadian policy guidance to reduce toxic drug-related injuries and deaths through the provision of a prescribed safer supply of medications as an alternative to highly toxic illicit drugs the next phase in risk mitigation following the March 2020 guidance. Budget 2021 provides 22.63 million over three years and implementation is underway in each Health Authority region. The Government of BC looks forward to continued collaboration with the Government of Canada to advance initiatives such as the decriminalization of drug possession that require bilateral collaboration.

Convention Decision