The B.C. government has declared a public health emergency due to a spike in overdoses and drug-related deaths since 2015.
This is the first time in B.C.’s history that a public health emergency has ever been declared, it is also the first province to take this kind of action over drug overdoses.
“The recent surge in overdoses is a huge concern for us,” says Health Minister Terry Lake in a statement. “We have to do what’s needed to prevent overdoses and deaths, and what’s needed is real-time information. Medical health officers need immediate access to what’s happening and where so they can deploy the necessary strategies to prevent these tragedies.”
These new powers will allow authorities to continue to work to reduce overdose deaths.
There were 474 drug overdose related deaths in 2015, a 30% increase from 2014. Without taking steps to combat the issue, the province could see 600 to 800 overdose deaths this year, according to the government.
More than 30% of those overdose deaths involved fentanyl, up from just 5% in 2012.
Specific information regarding the circumstances surrounding an overdose will be reported by health authorities as swiftly as possible, including location, the drugs used, and how they were taken for both fatal and non-fatal overdoses.
The government says this data will allow them to better target outreach, issue bad drug warnings, and create more effective awareness campaigns and distribution of naloxone training and kits.