Opioid crisis: Feds announce $76M for overdose prevention, treatment
The federal government has announced $76.2 million over the next five years in new funding to combat the opioid crisis.
That’s on top of the $30.5 million already promised in the 2019 federal budget.
Federal Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor made the announcement in Surrey on Wednesday morning. Officials are calling the city ground zero. Last year, 1,525 British Columbians died of an opioid-related overdose. One third of those happened in the Fraser Health Region and half of those deaths were in Surrey.
“We’ve listened to those on the front lines and they’ve told us what they need. They need more harm reduction and naloxone access in small and mid-sized communities,” said Petitpas Taylor.
The funding is being allocated to three different initiatives: $41.8 million for lifesaving tools like naloxone kits and overdose response training, $31.3 million to identify and address emerging threats like the growing use of methamphetamines and $33.6 million to increase access to pharmaceutical alternatives.
Advocates say that kind of commitment to a harm reductions strategy is long overdue.
“Not everybody’s going to choose a life of sobriety but that doesn’t mean that they should be put into this situation where they have to use drugs that could potentially kill them,” said Shayne Williams of the Lookout Society.
Health Canada’s substance use and addictions program will be administering financial aid. Those seeking that help, will be able to apply online.
“We want to make sure that financial aid will be available. So that the medication replacement therapies will be more readily available.”
The funding is spread out over the next five years and could be pulled if the Liberals lose power when voters head to the polls in October.