British Columbia

Health minister vows national plan to combat opioid crisis

Federal Health Minister Jane Philpott is preparing for a national summit on Canada's opioid crisis, and announced new funding for patient-oriented research in British Columbia.

Jane Philpott is preparing for national summit on opioid crisis next week

Experts, stakeholders, and health professionals will meet in Ottawa for a national summit on Canada's opioid crisis. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

Federal Health Minister Jane Philpott is preparing for a national summit next week in Ottawa on Canada's opioid crisis.

Philpott told the CBC's The Early Edition the crisis requires a comprehensive response that no one city or region can manage alone.

"We have to make sure we have a plan to go forward. This is absolutely unacceptable that people die of something that is preventable and we need to make sure that we take the steps necessary to address it," she said.

British Columbia has appointed its own task force to fight the overdose crisis.

The BC Coroners Service has recorded 488 overdose deaths from January until August of 2016 in the province.

Advocates have pointed out the opioid crisis has worsened due to the difficulty of creating new supervised injection sites under Bill C-2, or the Respect for Communities Act.

Echoing earlier comments, Philpott said she was working with staff to remove barriers created by Bill C-2.

"We know that they save lives, they prevent infections, that they introduce people to the health care system in a safe and non-judgmental way. We're very much in favour in these sites of one of a range of tools as a harm-reduction and treatment access."

When asked for a timeline, she remarked "as soon as possible."

The summit, which takes place over Nov. 18 and 19, will include experts, stakeholders, and health professionals from across the country.

Patient-oriented funding

Philpott was in Vancouver to make a joint federal and provincial government funding announcement.

She said $80 million will be invested in a research group — called the B.C. Support Unit — dedicated to the area of patient-oriented care.

In this kind of care, patients set the agenda, Philpott said.

"We talk to patients and ask what is it that you need to know to be able to live a healthier life," she explained. "Their priorities for what they need information on is different from what clinicians and scientists would say."

The B.C. Support Unit is part of a national strategy led by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.

With files from The Early Edition

To hear the interview, click on the link labelled Federal Minister Jane Philpott on the opioid crisis, health care funding