VANCOUVER -- B.C. unveiled its budget for the upcoming fiscal year Tuesday, which highlighted investments in health-care as the province continues to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic.

The finance minister said B.C.’s plan needed to both address the ongoing health crisis and to look ahead.

“Our focus is two-fold,” Selina Robinson said.

“First, to reinforce B.C.’s health-care system, both against the pandemic and to meet the needs of the future. Second, to make real, significant, and continued progress toward the mental health system that British Columbians deserve.”

Part of B.C.’s budget includes $900 million set aside specifically for “health-related COVID-19 management,” such as vaccine distribution, testing and contact tracing, expanded flu immunization and screening for COVID-19 at long-term care homes.

“Budget 2021 continues to protect seniors by expanding home health monitoring systems and adding more care aides to assist with daily living at home,” Robinson said.

Funding for those care aides is budgeted at $68 million over three years.

As well, the province plans to spend $585 million to train and hire up to 3,000 people as health-care workers.

Another $45 million is earmarked for addressing racism against Indigenous people in the health-care system.

The budget also announced what the finance ministry is saying is the “largest investment ever made” in the mental health field at $500 million over three years.

Robinson explained COVID-19 isn’t the only health emergency B.C. is facing.

“We recently marked a sombre five years since B.C.’s overdose emergency was declared,” she said.

“I want to recognize the thousands of people we have lost to a poisoned drug supply — the parents and siblings, children and colleagues, friends and neighbours whose lives were cut short. May their memories be a blessing.”

Of that funding, $330 million will go to providing a full spectrum of substance-use treatment and recovery services, including $152 million for opioid treatment. As well, 195 new substance use treatment and recovery beds will be added in communities throughout the province.

Furthermore, $97 million will be used to build a network of mental health supports for youth, $61 million will be used over the three years to improve access to supports like eating disorder care and suicide prevention and $14 million will be distributed to the First Nations Health Authority for services to Indigenous peoples.

Other health funding announced includes $495 million to increase capacity in diagnostic imaging and surgery, $300 million over three years to address growing demand for cancer care, PharmaCare and services under MSP and $253 million to expand urgent primary care centres.

Additionally, ongoing infrastructure investments of $7.8 billion will support major health-care construction projects including the new Surrey Hospital and Cancer Centre, the new St. Paul’s Hospital as well as new hospitals in Cowichan District, Dawson Creek, Terrace and Stuart Lake.