B.C. steps up drug overdose response, seeks federal help [with VIDEO]

Task force created, Ottawa under pressure to act to restrict pill presses, unchecked importation of small packages of fentanyl

Packaged fentanyl seized by Calgary Police.

Packaged fentanyl seized by Calgary Police.




A new overdose response task force has been created by the B.C. government as officials step up their attempts to reduce the surge in deaths from illicit drug use.

Provincial health officer Dr. Perry Kendall and director of police services Clayton Pecknold will head the task force, which is to provide expert leadership and advice to the province on what more can be done.

B.C. Premier Christy Clark is also urging the federal government to take action.

“While we are leading the country in addressing this issue, families are still losing loved ones to senseless and tragic drug overdoses,” she said.

RELATED: Drug overdose deaths surge 74 per cent so far in 2016 Drug consumption sites to be part of Fraser strategy on overdoses

The province wants Ottawa to make it easier to quickly create new supervised consumption sites in B.C.

Clark is also urging the federal government to restrict access to pill presses and tableting machines, which currently are legal to possess.

B.C. also wants the feds to tighten control of precursor materials to make fentanyl, create escalating charges for importing and trafficking the often-deadly synthetic opioid, and ensure Canada Border Services Agency has the right tools to detect incoming fentanyl.

Health Minster Terry Lake said fentanyl can be ordered over the internet and delivered by mail in small packages under 30 grams that the CBSA is powerless to open.

“Because this is such a powerful drug, it doesn’t take very much in order to make the pills that we see on the street today,” he said.

Packages of fentanyl seized by Calgary Police.

Fentanyl is much more powerful than heroin and is believed to be arriving from Asia, usually in powdered form before being pressed into pills here. Users often believe they are taking something else, such as oxycontin, ecstasy or cocaine that turn out to be laced with more potent fentanyl.

A testing service is to be set up to help people find out if their drugs are contaminated with unexpected substances, such as fentanyl.

There were 371 drug overdose deaths in the first half of the year, a dramatic increase that prompted the declaration of a public health emergency earlier this spring. About 60 per cent of the deaths have been tied to fentanyl.

Provincial partners have been actively distributing take-home naloxone kits that can be used to reverse an overdose – more than 10,000 of the kits have been distributed so far in B.C.

As of July 1, it’s become easier for doctors to prescribe Suboxone to treat opioid addiction.

Fraser Health earlier this month said it would identify priority locations for new supervised injection or consumption sites in Surrey and potentially other drug-troubled urban areas in the region, and work with local municipalities to secure support.

A report from a recent meeting on potential overdose responses released by the B.C. Centre for Disease Control says expansion of supervised sites beyond Vancouver is “urgent” in view of the overdose epidemic and federal legislation created by the former Conservative federal government that encumbers the process of permitting new sites is a “significant barrier to rapid expansion of these services.”

Participants at the overdose response meeting recommended creating mobile sites as well as safe consumption rooms at every homeless shelter.

There are so far no supervised drug use sites in the Fraser Health region.

There have been more overdose deaths in Fraser – 114 in the first six months of the year  – than any other region of the province, and Fraser also accounts for the most fentanyl-linked deaths so far this year.

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

Just Posted

Construction is expected to start in March of 2021 on 23 new rental homes funded by the provincial government’s Community Housing Fund. (Metro Creative photo)
Province announces rental home project in Chilliwack paid for by Community Housing Fund

Twenty three homes for Indigenous families are planned in partnership with Tzeachten First Nation

Shandhar Hut Indian Cuisine reopened Dec. 1, 2020 in Chilliwack after closing Nov. 19 as a precautionary move to keep everyone safe. (Shandhar Hut/Facebook)
Chilliwack restaurant reopens after closing temporarily as a precautionary step

‘We are so grateful to everyone for their kindness,’ says Shandhar Hut manager

Police say 30-year-old Andrew Baldwin was killed in Surrey on Nov. 11. (Photo: Police handout)
Fourth man charged in 2019 Surrey murder

Andrew Baldwin, 30, was killed on Remembrance Day last year

Canadian Red Cross staff engaged in a Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and social distancing training exercise. (Luc Alary / Canadian Red Cross)
Red Cross canvassers following PHO guidelines while going door-to-door

Canvassers using safety protocols including masks and distancing to continue organization’s efforts

A tongue-in-cheek message about wearing a face mask to curb the spread of COVID-19 on a sign outside a church near Royal Columbia Hospital, in New Westminster, B.C., on Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection count climbs back up to 656

20 more people in hospital, active cases still rising

An RCMP cruiser looks on as a military search and rescue helicopter winds down near Bridesville, B.C. Tuesday, Dec. 1. Photo courtesy of RCMP Cpl. Jesse O’Donaghey
B.C. Mountie, suspect airlifted by Canadian Armed Forces from ravine after foot chase

Military aircraft were dispatched from Comox, B.C., say RCMP

Photo by Dale Klippenstein
Suspect tries to thwart police in Abbotsford with false 911 call about men with guns

Man twice sped away from officers and then tried to throw them off his trail

A logo for Netflix on a remote control is seen in Portland, Ore.,Aug. 13, 2020. Experts in taxation and media say a plan announced Monday by the government will ultimately add to the cost of digital services and goods sold by foreign companies. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Jenny Kane
‘Netflix tax’ for digital media likely to raise prices for consumers, experts say

The government says Canadian companies already collect those taxes when they make digital sales

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

BIG SALMON ranch in Washington State. (Center for Whale Research handout)
Non-profit buys Chinook ranch in hopes of increasing feed for southern resident killer whales

The ranch, which borders both sides of Washington State’s Elwha River, is a hotspot for chinook salmon

Gaming content was big on YouTube in 2020. (Black Press Media files)
What did Canadians watch on Youtube during isolation? Workouts, bird feeders

Whether it was getting fit or ‘speaking moistly,’ Canadians had time to spare this year

(Needpix.com)
Fraudsters projected to use pet scams to gouge over $3M from customers: BBB

The pandemic heavily contributed to the number of puppy scams

Most Read