News / Vancouver

B.C. Premier announces addiction research centre to fight fentanyl epidemic

Premier Christy Clark announces research centre and funding to fight overdose crisis during Union of B.C. Municipalities address.

British Columbia Premier Christy Clark speaks in Vancouver on January 22, 2013.

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

British Columbia Premier Christy Clark speaks in Vancouver on January 22, 2013.

British Columbia will set up an addiction treatment research and training centre to combat the province’s overdose crisis, Premier Christy Clark announced.

Clark announced $10 million in funding toward the centre and B.C.’s Joint Task Force on Overdose Prevention while giving her annual address to the Union of British Columbia Municipalities convention in Victoria on Wednesday.

The province reported 488 overdose deaths so far this year (as of the end of August), largely fueled by the prevalence of fentanyl in street drugs.

The death toll is on pace to far exceed the 505 overdose deaths in B.C. last year, and the provincial government has declared the epidemic a public health emergency.

“Fentanyl has become a real plague and all of us see people and know people for whom it has had absolutely horrific consequences,” said Clark. “It is absolutely preventable and we must stem this epidemic on our streets. We must protect our children.”

Half of the funding announced will go toward the establishment of a B.C. Centre on Substance Abuse, tasked with implementing provincial guidelines for the treatment of opioid addiction and co-ordinating evidence based responses to the crisis with health authorities, researchers and service providers.

Renowned researcher Dr. Evan Wood, medical director of addiction services at Vancouver Coastal Health and Providence Health Care has been named the centre’s interim director.

Clark said the funding and establishment of the centre is something Wood specifically asked the province for.

The other $5 million will go towards initiatives recommended by the province’s task force, including more training for police on the use of naloxone, a drug that can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose, and enhanced drug testing.

“Every one of those [overdose] deaths is preventable and I think every parent in the province who hasn’t been affected sits home and worries at night if their children are at a party,” she said. “We’ve got to do more. Dr. Evan Wood is a world leader at this and we couldn’t have done better than having someone like him helping us find a way to stem the epidemic.”

The funding announcement was one of three made by Clark in her UBCM speech, which focused primarily on the government’s track record on the economy and recent action on housing ahead of an election year.

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