With drugs overdose deaths continuing to soar, the Union of B.C. Municipalities has called on the provincial government to up its game in fighting the opioid crisis.
A resolution put before delegates at this year’s virtual convention, said B.C. faces two public health emergencies with the COVID-19 crisis declared in March 2020, and the overdose crisis declared in April 2016.
On Sept. 23 alone, the B.C. Coroners Service said there were 147 illicit drug toxicity deaths reported in August, which is a 71% increase over the number of deaths in August 2019.
So far in 2020, Whistler Coun. Jen Ford said, more than 900 British Columbians have died this year alone. She said more services have been requested for 15 years.
The resolution was approved by a vote of 93%.
The UBCM called for:
• ongoing, sustained funding to address the overdose public health emergency;
• implementing a province-wide agreement between police and mental health officials on the management of mental health patients in emergency wards;
• developing integrated teams of health, police, and other officials on a 24-hour basis to manage individuals with mental health issues; and
• introducing additional long-term care beds to deal specifically with mental illness cases.
Specifically, the resolution recommends:
• a long term, multi-faceted strategy to address mental health and addictions issues including integrated health and psychiatric care, criminal justice reform, and access to affordable housing;
• adequate level of resourcing and facilities for providing mental health and addiction services;
• Changes to WorkSafe BC procedures to allow faster approval for mental health services for first responders;
• funding for a child and youth mental health and substance use collaborative;
• additional funds for mental health and addictions services on the Riverview lands;
• spaces for observed inhalation sites for overdose prevention; and
• additional rehabilitation facilities and beds in every local government area in B.C.
Further, the resolution noted, those with opioid use disorder are subject to an unpredictable and highly-toxic drug supply, and require safer alternatives to reduce the risk of overdose harm.
The increasing demand on police services responding to mental health and addictions issues also needs addressing, the resolution said.