British Columbia

Naloxone is now mandatory in all B.C. rehab centres

The B.C. government is ordering that naloxone kits be made available in all residential rehab centres where clients could be at risk of overdose, according to Ministry of Health documents obtained by CBC News.

Licensed community care facilities must be prepared for immediate response to an overdose

The opioid antidote naloxone can save lives during overdoses. (Stefan Labbe/CBC)

The B.C. government is ordering that Naloxone kits be made available in all residential rehab centres where clients could be at risk of overdose, according to Ministry of Health documents obtained by CBC News. 

The policy that became effective Dec. 6 is outlined in a new standard of practice issued by Ministry of Health director of licensing Doug Hughes. 

"Operators of licensed community care facilities that provide care to persons who are at risk of an opioid drug overdose must obtain and maintain a supply of naloxone for emergency use in the event that a person in care suffers from a drug overdose,"says the directive.

The guidelines state the regulation that only medications prescribed or ordered by medical professionals can be administered to people in care must not be interpreted as a barrier to using naloxone to a person who is suffering an overdose.

"Operators must receive training in the administration of naloxone from their pharmacist and must ensure that their staff also receive appropriate training."

The facilities must also ensure trained staff are available at all times to administer Naloxone as needed to people in care. 

Facility operators thrilled 

"It's a great move to see the government just mandating it without going through long channels," said Melanie Jordan, who operates the Sunshine Coast Health Centre in Powell River, B.C.

"It usually takes quite a while to change licensing regulation in this province so I'm really happy to see the government make a decision and tell us this is mandatory now." 

Naloxone in care facilities will allow staff to save lives, said Jordan. 

"Initially in the opioid crisis, we weren't dealing with overdoses that killed so fast. There was time to get an ambulance attendant there who was trained in administering naloxone," said Jordan. 

"We were just caught off guard by the strength of fentanyl and now these new drugs carfentanil and whatever is coming down the pipe afterwards." 

Necessary move 

Last month, medical experts and family members of overdose victims called on the provincial government to make naloxone kits mandatory in rehab centres. 

In April, the provincial health officer declared a public health emergency under B.C.'s Public Health Act, in response to an unprecedented number of opioid overdose deaths across the province. 

Firefighters try to revive a man who has already had two doses of naloxone after overdosing on fentanyl in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. (CBC)

Since then, the rate of overdose deaths remains high but many lives are also being saved by community members and first responders through the rapid administration of naloxone, said Hughes.

A provincial task force on overdose prevention and response recently recommended "immediate response to an overdose by expanding naloxone availability and the reach of supervised consumption services in the province."   

With files from Natalie Clancy