The House

B.C.'s opioids fight needs Ottawa's leadership

British Columbia's minister for mental health and addictions is calling on the federal government to take a leadership role in the devastating opioid crisis, and says she will be pushing for Ottawa to do so when provincial and federal health ministers meet next week.

British Columbia's minister for mental health and addictions is calling on the federal government to take a leadership role in the devastating opioid crisis, and says she will be pushing for Ottawa to do so when provincial and federal health ministers meet next week.

The British Columbia Centre on Substance Use issued guidelines this week for how to prescribe hydromorphone and prescription heroin to treat opioid addiction in the province.

Not everyone is a fan of the approach, but Judy Darcy, B.C's first mental health and addictions minister, says the guidelines are based on solid evidence and will be an important tool to save lives.

Darcy told The House that four people in B.C. die every day from overdoses.

"We can't allow this to become the new normal, and it's becoming the new normal," she said.

Heroin and hydromorphone, which Darcy said is fairly widely used for dealing with severe pain after surgery, are considered an option for people with opioid addiction who do not respond to other forms of treatment, such as naloxone.

Darcy said the leadership role the feds need to play includes eliminating some of the bureaucratic barriers to make prescribing methadone more accessible and less restrictive regulation about where these kinds of prescription medications can be administered.

She said she expects the new BCCSU guidelines to be a topic of conversation when the sits down with Canada's Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor next week.

Darcy added that she'll be pressing the federal government to spearhead a national anti-stigma campaign to change attitudes about people with addictions.

"We need to get to the point where we treat people living with addictions with the same dignity and respect, and the same quality of care, that we provide for any physical illness."

Judy Darcy, B-C's minister of mental health and addictions, explains why the province's Centre on Substance Abuse released has issued new guidelines to allow for some addicts to receive injectable opioids in a medcially-supervised setting. 7:30

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