'It's going to become an unstoppable plague in this country,' says premier of opioid crisis
Christy Clark is urging the federal government to declare a national health emergency
Premier Christy Clark says unless the federal government declares a national public health emergency in response to the growing number of opioid-related deaths in this country, the crisis will only get worse.
"I'm hoping that they'll change their minds on that because we've declared it in B.C. and it's helped," Clark told host Rick Cluff on CBC's The Early Edition.
"Here we are in B.C., 622 people dead, many of them young people. The whole country should be worried about that."
Health experts say declaring a national public health emergency would empower chief medical officers to take the actions necessary to reduce harm.
Clark traveled to Ottawa on Nov. 18 for the federal summit on the opioid crisis where she met with Health Minister Jane Philpott and Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale.
The Premier said she received a sympathetic ear and is pleased the federal government has taken action to curb the flow of illicit drugs — such as the potent opioid fentanyl — into Canada.
But Clark said unless the federal government steps up and declares a national public health emergency, the crisis will spread across the country.
"If we don't try and nip it in the bud — and it's probably well past that already in British Columbia — it's going to become an unstoppable plague in this country," said Clark.
"It's only really by taking the B.C. state of emergency and declaring that nationally that we'll have the tools to really stop this."
More treatment beds coming
Clark said in the next few months, the province will be creating more beds for addictions treatment.
The Premier had promised to create 500 new spaces in B.C. by 2017.
"In the next few months we'll have a few more open. We're about 200 short of our goal of 500. We've opened up 300 new beds," said Clark.
With files from the Early Edition