British Columbia

UBC medical students head to Victoria to lobby MLAs on opioid crisis

"We want to enter a health care system that works better for people who are suffering from chronic pain and those who have substance abuse disorders," one student said.

Students say they want to enter a health care system that works for those with chronic pain, substance abuse

Thirty-six UBC medical students are travelling to Victoria, B.C. on Monday. (Denis Dossman/CBC)

Three dozen medical students from the University of British Columbia (UBC) are heading to Victoria Monday to lobby the provincial government about the ongoing opioid crisis.

Future doctors from the university travel to the capital once a year to discuss concerns with the state of health care in the province.

Emma Mitchell, senior chair of UBC's medical student political advocacy committee, said it's imperative the opioid crisis remain front-and-centre in provincial politics.

"Medical students are overwhelmingly voicing their concern for what's happening in our communities and in our province," she said. "We'll be entering the health-care system in a few years as physicians, and we want to enter a health care system that works better for people who are suffering from chronic pain and those who have substance use disorders."

Mitchell said the 36 students travelling to Victoria represent 1,100 students from UBC's four campuses. The group would like to see increased access to chronic pain management treatments and start a conversation with MLAs about decriminalization.

"Medical students haven't come forward voicing support for against decriminalization but we would like to see it evaluated in a formal way to see if it would be a feasible option for improving the lives of people who use drugs in our province," Mitchell said.

Emma Mitchell is the senior chair of UBC's medical student political advocacy committee. (Errol Richardson)

The second-year student said Health Minister Terry Lake isn't available Monday, but other MLAs will be there in his absence.

Last year, 922 people in B.C. died from an illicit drug overdose. On Feb. 17, B.C. signed on to the health care deal with the federal government that will provide more than $1 billion for home care and mental health.

The province will also get an additional $10 million in emergency management funds to help deal with the opioid crisis.

With files from CBC's Brenna Rose