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Minister’s statement on lives lost to poisoned drugs in 2023

CANADA, January 24 - Jennifer Whiteside, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, has released the following statement regarding the BC Coroners Service year-end report on illicit drug toxicity deaths:

“Today, as we reflect on the year behind us, our hearts are heavy with the loss of 2,511 people in British Columbia to toxic drugs. Each of these lives was precious and important, each with their own story, their own dreams and people who love them. They were part of our community, and their loss is felt deeply by us all.

“My commitment to ending this crisis is unwavering. Our government is taking action to strengthen mental-health and addiction services across the spectrum of needs – from early intervention and prevention, to housing, to treatment and recovery. Our goal is to ensure that accessible, effective care is there for everyone, right when they need it.

“Every person is unique. There are many paths through which people come into addiction, and we must provide many paths out. We are working with health authorities and community partners in all parts of the province to provide services that people need. Last year, we made significant progress, announcing the addition of 12 more Foundry centres, enhancing peer-assisted care teams, and creating more access to bed-based treatment, as well as outpatient and virtual care. And we have recently launched public awareness campaigns to share messages of hope, and to help people connect to the right care for them.

“We are also teaching young people and their parents about the dangers of toxic drugs. We want to make sure they know about the risks and have the right information for important conversations and safe decision-making.

“Our actions are making a meaningful difference and are saving lives. For example, a recent study found that B.C.’s prescribed alternatives to street drugs program reduces the risk of death by as much as 91% in people with opioid-use disorder. This data supports the effectiveness of prescribed pharmaceutical alternatives to street drugs as a life-saving option for people with severe opioid addiction.

“If you are using drugs, please do not use alone. Consider using tools like the Lifeguard app and carrying naloxone, which can be lifesaving in an emergency. Remember, reaching out for help is a sign of strength, not weakness, and there are programs and services available to meet you where you are in your recovery journey.

“As we face the ongoing tragedy of the toxic-drug crisis, our dedication to ending this public-health emergency is as strong as ever. There is still much work to be done, and I am committed to doing everything I can to save lives and create a safer, healthier future for everyone in British Columbia.”

Learn More:

Updated actions on the drug poisoning response: https://news.gov.bc.ca/factsheets/escalated- drug-poisoning-response-actions-1

For a list of mental-health and addictions resources and services, visit: https://helpstartshere.gov.bc.ca/