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B.C. premier pledges more funding to address police shortage of naloxone

Click to play video: 'BC NDP reverses Naloxone funding decision' BC NDP reverses Naloxone funding decision
The B.C. government said it would once again fund Naloxone kits and training for municipal police forces, reversing a decision made in April 2020. Police expressed relief at the decision, which cost Victoria Police $15,000 last year. Kylie Stanton reports – Sep 24, 2021

B.C.’s supply of provincially-funded naloxone in some police agencies is depleted, forcing some departments to buy their own supplies of the overdose-reversing drug.

Premier John Horgan says his government is working to allocate funding to buy more naloxone kits, which have successfully been used to reverse opioid overdoses in thousands of people in the province.

Click to play video: 'One million naloxone kits have been distributed in B.C.' One million naloxone kits have been distributed in B.C.
One million naloxone kits have been distributed in B.C – Jun 12, 2021

The Victoria Police Department has been paying for its own naloxone kits this past year after funding ended in April 2020, while the Saanich Police Department said in a statement that its naloxone kits will expire at the end of the year.

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Bowen Osoko, a spokesman for Victoria police, says the force allocated $15,000 from its human resources budget to buy the kits, which retail between $130 and $140 each.

Read more: Okanagan police officer administers naloxone to unresponsive man found on Vernon sidewalk

He says police departments across the province were notified of the funding cut, but the severity and frequency of overdoses meant the Victoria Police Department never considered not buying more kits.

The province declared a public health emergency in 2016 as overdoses climbed due to the powerful synthetic opioid fentanyl, and since then 7,760 people have died from suspected ODs.

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The Opposition Liberals are criticizing the funding cut, calling it an “appalling” decision.

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Trevor Halford, the critic for mental health and addictions, said the B.C. government claims the overdose crisis is a public health emergency but cutting funding shows they think otherwise.

“The cost of a naloxone kit is not greater than the cost of losing someone’s life,” Halford said in a statement.

Osoko said the Victoria police used over 100 naloxone kits in the past year, and officers are asked to respond to overdoses daily.

Const. Steve Addison, a spokesman for the Vancouver Police Department, said the force recently purchased more naloxone kits but could not comment on the funding or size of its supply.

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More than 1,000 deaths in 2021 from toxic drugs: BC Corners Service – Aug 31, 2021

Sheila Malcolmson, the minister of mental health and addictions, said in a statement that “having police officers carry naloxone is integral to saving lives in our communities” and her ministry will work to ensure there are no further funding gaps.

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The “Toward the Heart” program, which is run by the BC Centre for Disease Control and offers harm reduction supplies, said in a statement that its take-home naloxone kits are available to those who are likely to witness or respond to an overdose and there are no supply issues with its programs.

 

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