RICHMOND, B.C. – Canada’s health minister has announced a 10-year, $1.4 billion health-funding agreement with British Columbia, and a multimillion dollar investment to fight the opioid crisis across the country.
Federal Health Minister Jane Philpott says the funding agreement with B.C. includes $785 million for better home care and more than $650 million for mental-health initiatives.
B.C. has been at the epicentre of the overdose crisis caused by illicit opioids and Philpott also announced $65 million to combat the epidemic nationwide.
“In addition, in recognition of the severe impact this has had on British Columbia, we will be providing this province with the support of $10 million to help in its emergency response.”
The $65 million will support what communities across the country have asked them for: better lab testing, better toxicology, better data and surveillance, she said.
“We are taking an approach that will protect lives and protect the health of communities.”
The province said Friday that 116 people died last month as a result of illicit drug use, in addition to a record 914 people last year.
B.C. Health Minister Terry Lake said the new funding will provide much-needed help.
“We have in B.C. taken drastic action on the opioid crisis. Funding to date is approaching $100 million. It is a staggering amount of money, but (there is) a more staggering human toll that we’re talking about here.”
Up until now, Lake has repeatedly said the province would not negotiate a separate health-funding deal with the federal government after talks between the provinces, territories and Ottawa broke down in December.
They rejected a federal offer that would have poured an additional $25 billion over the next five years into health care, with money tagged specifically for mental health and home care.
Since then, Philpott has announced agreements with New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Yukon, Northwest Territories, Nunavut, Saskatchewan and Prince Edward Island.