British Columbia

Health minister announces $71.7M in emergency funding for drug treatment in B.C.

Federal Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor says money will help improve access to treatment and recovery services in B.C.

Ginette Petitpas Taylor says money will improve access to treatment and recovery services

B.C. Mental Health and Addictions Minister Judy Darcy says the money will help connect people with addiction treatment directly after they're treated in hospital for an overdose. (Graeme Roy/Canadian Press)

Canada's federal health minister has announced $71.7 million in emergency funding to improve access to addiction treatment services in B.C. 

Ginette Petitpas Taylor made the announcement at an opioid symposium in Toronto on Thursday, after participating in a panel with Bill Blair, the federal minister for organized crime reduction.

She was joined by B.C. Minister of Mental Health and Addictions Judy Darcy, who said the funding will help connect young and Indigenous people to addiction treatment and recovery services, and make it easier to get people into treatment after they are treated in hospital after an overdose.

The money comes as B.C. faces what Darcy described as its worst public health emergency in decades.

"Before the end of this day, three to four people … will die" of an overdose, she said.

Toronto Mayor John Tory and Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson are also participating in the symposium.

Darcy says the province is facing its worst public health emergency in decades. (John Woods/The Canadian Press)

The announcement comes as Ontario grapples with the future of its overdose prevention sites, after the provincial government announced last month it would halt the opening of new sites while it conducts a review of their effectiveness.

The moratorium was condemned by more than 100 health groups, who said the move was putting lives at risk.

Advocates said a string of overdose deaths in Toronto last month shows there is urgent need for more facilities, and urged the province to reverse its decision.

Petitpas Taylor said on Wednesday that her ministry intends to share with Ontario's Progressive Conservative government its data showing that overdose prevention sites and supervised consumption sites work.

"We certainly want to be able to share that information with them, and I hope that they'll be making an informed decision based on the data that we have,'' she told the Canadian Press in an interview.

More than 3,800 people died from opioids in Canada in 2017, compared to 2,978 in 2016, according to the latest figures published by Health Canada.

With files from The Canadian Press

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