$322M of new opioid crisis spending in B.C., and much of it is going to the cops for now

Click to play video: 'John Horgan pledges $322M to tackle the opioid crisis'
John Horgan pledges $322M to tackle the opioid crisis
B.C.'s premier has pledged new money to tackle the opioid crisis. The money would go to addiction treatment in the hardest-hit regions – Sep 29, 2017

“If today is an average day, four more people will die.”

That was B.C. Premier John Horgan talking about the opioid crisis at the UBCM convention on Friday, as he outlined a plan that has $322 million in new funding over three years that is designed to “help communities in crisis.”

Much of the new funding — $31.3 million over three years — is being devoted to law enforcement efforts and drug investigations to stop the supply of fentanyl and protect public safety. But that’s set to change when a plan for all the funding is announced.

Coverage of the opioid crisis in B.C.:

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The money will support new anti-trafficking teams for the provincial RCMP as well as the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit (CFSEU-BC).

“This puts more boots on the ground to go after, arrest and prosecute dangerous and violent drug traffickers to disrupt the drug supply line in communities,” said a news release.

READ MORE: 9 suspected deaths. 156 calls. That’s just 10 days in Vancouver’s overdose crisis

The money set aside for law enforcement will also fund proejcts to target drug traffickers in an effort to cut off the flow of fentanyl into the province.

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More money will also go to the BC Coroners Service so that it can expand its Drug-Death Investigations Team, in an effort to reduce a backlog of cases.

A naloxone anti-overdose kit is shown in Vancouver on Feb. 10, 2017.
A naloxone anti-overdose kit is shown in Vancouver on Feb. 10, 2017. Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press

But not all the new funding will be heading toward law enforcement and investigations.

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It will also support a “Community Crisis Innovation Fund” that will help to come up with new measures to fight addiction such as early-intervention or community-based prevention programs.

The funding will also help to set up community treatment facilities in cities including as Vancouver, Burnaby, Langley, Abbotsford, Chilliwack and Mission.

Funding details for this initiative, however, are “still being finalized.”

All told, the spending announcements totalled just over $62 million. But that number will change when all the funding plans are laid out in full.

When that happens, as much as $290 million will likely end up devoted to health initiatives, said the Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions.

Here’s what the province has committed to from the $322 million:

Law enforcement: $31.3 million over three years

  • New anti-trafficking units inside the RCMP and the CFSEU-BC
  • Resources for projects to target drug traffickers and cut off the supply of fentanyl
  • More money for the BC Coroners Service to expand its Drug-Death Investigation Team to reduce backlog and handle an increased workload and lab tests

Community crisis action fund ($15 million): $3 million in 2017-18; $6 million in 2018-19; $6 million in 2019-20

  • A fund that will help to introduce new prevention and harm-reduction measures and treatment approaches

Public awareness ($6.74 million): $2 million in 2017-18; $2.37 million in 2018-19; $2.37 million in 2019-20

  • A public awareness campaign focused on men aged 30 to 60 years old — the group that is most at risk of an opioid overdose — that will also work to lower the stigma around addiction
  • The province is working on this in conjunction with WorkSafeBC, the B.C. Restaurant and Food Services Association and BC Building Trades Council

Better access to naloxone kits ($6 million): $2 million in 2017-18; $2 million in 2018-19; $2 million in 2019-20

  • Establish new naloxone distribution sites at pharmacies around the province
  • Supports a goal of ensuring that people who use opioids or are likely to respond to overdoses can access free kits at pharmacies by the end of 2017

First-responder support ($3.4 million): $1.7 million in 2018-19; $1.7 million in 2019-20

  • Funding to support the work of the Mobile Response Team, which trains and supports staff and volunteers with organizations that respond to overdoses

Community treatment facilities (funding details not specified)

  • Money to support better and quicker access to medication treatments for opioid addictions
  • Health authorities are looking to expand and open new addiction clinics in Vancouver, Burnaby, Langley, Abbotsford, Chilliwack and Mission
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