The news was expected, but it was grim and sad and shocking just the same.
Last week, the BC Coroners Service released statistics on overdose deaths in 2020 and a record number of deaths were recorded provincewide (1,716) and in Kamloops (60).
Thousands of people across B.C. and Canada have died from overdoses since fentanyl became a common deadly ingredient in the illicit drug supply in 2016. That was also the year the provincial government declared a public health emergency. That declaration remains today, yet the death count continues to rise.
There have been calls for decriminalization of simple possession of hard drugs, alongside creation of a government-controlled safe supply of those drugs. There have been calls for more treatment beds, more social services, more social housing — more of everything.
It is a daunting challenge, but amid the tragedy there are glimmers of hope.
By the end of this month, registered and psychiatric nurses in B.C. will be able to prescribe Suboxone, a prescription opioid substitute. Research from the BC Centre on Substance Use suggests about 83,000 people have opioid dependence in B.C., while only about 23,000 people in the province have access to any form of opioid substitute treatment.
Much more needs to be done, but this move to expand the prescription powers will, as nurse Kate Hodgson noted in a recent story, “can really save someone’s life.”