B.C. Premier Christy Clark has announced further action to deal with the crisis of drug overdose deaths in the province, including a joint task force.
In a press conference on Wednesday, Clark called the situation “alarming and frighting.”
“From January to June, there has been a 74 per cent increase in fentanyl deaths,” said Clark. “That is 371 lives lost.”
The province has now announced a task force, headed by provincial health officer Dr. Perry Kendall and Clayton Pecknold, director of police services.
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Other members will include representatives from BC Centre of Disease Control and the ministries of Health and Public Safety.
The purpose of the task force will be to establish a testing service for people to determine if drugs contain fentanyl. It will also call on the Federal Government to help restrict access to pill presses and tablet machines, as well as the opening of more supervised consumption or injection sights.
The government would also like to see escalating charges for the importation and trafficking of fentanyl and will request that Canada Border Services Agency has the right tools to keep illicit opioids from reaching B.C. streets.
“While we are leading the country in addressing this issue, families are still losing loved ones to senseless and tragic drug overdoses,” said Clark. “This task force will help the province take the additional steps needed to get drugs like fentanyl off the street, get people the treatment they need and keep families healthy and safe.”
Last April, a public health emergency was declared in B.C. because of the overdose spike and the increase of fenantyl.
Earlier this month there were 36 overdoses in Surrey alone in one weekend.
“It is extremely upsetting to see the alarming surge in overdoses we are seeing across the province,” said Health Minister Terry Lake. “This new task force brings a multifaceted approach to tackle the crisis from both a policing and a health perspective and supports a stronger partnership with our federal government.”
B.C. has been leading the country in responding to the growing number of opioid overdoses and was the first province in Canada to implement a province-wide take-home naloxone program.
The take-home kits are available at more than 260 sites across B.C. Recently, the federal government approved the naloxone nasal spray kits for sale in Canada.