Correction: This story has been updated to clarify that physicians and nurse practitioners already had the ability to prescribe safer pharmaceutical alternatives. Henry’s order authorized registered nurses and registered psychiatric nurses to prescribe pharmaceutical alternatives to street drugs.
B.C.’s top doctor has issued a public health order that allows more health professionals to prescribe safer pharmaceutical alternatives to help slow the province’s overdose crisis.
The order, issued under the Health Professions Act, authorizes registered nurses and registered psychiatric nurses to prescribe pharmaceutical alternatives to street drugs to help separate more people from the poisoned street drug supply to save lives and provide opportunities for ongoing care, treatment and support.
Previously, only physicians and nurse practitioners had the ability to prescribe alternatives to street drugs.
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said in a release that increasing the number of health professionals authorized to help people at risk for overdose by prescribing alternatives to toxic street drugs will be critical to saving lives and linking more people to treatment and other health and social services.
This new standard will include training and education.
“Before the COVID-19 pandemic began, B.C. was making progress and overdose deaths were coming down for the first time since 2012,” said Judy Darcy, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, said in a release.
“Each life lost to overdose is a tragedy and we are taking every preventative measure possible to save more lives and connect more people to treatment and supportive services.”
People in B.C. with substance-use disorder and addictions can currently access safer drug alternatives by talking to their doctor, nurse practitioner, community care team or by calling 811.
To date, more than 1,000 people in B.C. have died of an overdose in 2020.
A nurse practitioner, according to Health Match BC, are registered nurses who have completed Master’s level clinical education which enables them to prescribe medications, order tests, autonomously diagnose and treat medical conditions and refer a patient to a specialist.