The B.C. government says it will provide $5 million to help paramedics and dispatchers better respond to the deepening fentanyl crisis.
The money will add resources to help paramedics in two crucial geographic areas — Vancouver's Downtown Eastside and a high overdose area in Surrey — where help is most needed, Health Minister Terry Lake told B.C. Almanac host Gloria Macarenko on Friday.
The money will also help to put paramedics on bikes and ATVs to help them get to hard-to-navigate areas, Lake said.
"We recognize our paramedics have been working tremendously hard for the better part of a year," the minister said.
"This has been very hard on them and we want to make sure we are supporting them in saving lives."
Over the last week B.C. had the highest number of overdose-related 911 calls ever recorded, Lake noted, with a particularly high spike in the Lower Mainland.
Lake said B.C. paramedics have "literally saved hundreds of lives over the last year."
In addition to more medical support and putting paramedics on bikes and ATVs, the money will also provide:
- More supervisory support to help paramedics and dispatchers with triaging.
- Expand the Vancouver dispatch centre's ability to monitor and triage complex cases to further support paramedics.
In a statement, B.C.'s Emergency Health Services executive vice president Linda Lupini welcomed the announcement, saying the funding will allow them "to make sure we can respond to the unprecedented number of overdose patients adequately."
Fentanyl overdose deaths have skyrocket across Canada this year and now kill more Canadians than car crashes, according to recent coroners reports.
This year approximately two people have died every day in B.C. from accidental drug overdoses, and 62 per cent of those cases are linked to fentanyl.
The powerful painkiller is said to be up to 100 times more potent than morphine or heroin.