B.C.’s Provincial Health Officer has issued a new order that would help the province roll out their plan to provide a safer supply of drugs to those living with addiction in an effort to mitigate the impacts of an increasingly toxic street drug supply.
The order issued under the Health Professions Act authorizes registered nurses and registered psychiatric nurses to prescribe pharmaceutical alternatives to street drugs.
Nurses will be adhering to new standards through the availability of additional training, education, and access to expert consultation.
“We know the pandemic has only made the street drug supply in B.C. more toxic than ever, putting people who use drugs at extremely high risk for overdose,” said Henry in a statement released Wednesday morning.
“Giving physicians and nurse practitioners the ability to prescribe safer pharmaceutical alternatives has been critical to saving lives and linking more people to treatment and other health and social services.”
In addition, the Office of the Provincial Health Officer, Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions and the Ministry of Health are working to develop an updated policy directive for prescribers and health authorities.
This policy will expand the eligibility criteria of prescription drugs to include individuals with opioid-use disorder, other substance-use disorders or individuals with a history of accessing the toxic street drug supply who are at high risk of overdose and other drug-related harms.
It would also expand the number of access points from which these medications can be dispensed to include health authorities and community pharmacies.
These policy directives are expected to be released “as soon as possible”—no timeline has been provided for when that will be.
At the moment, people living with substance use disorders and addictions can access safer pharmaceutical alternatives by talking to their physician, community care team, or by calling 811.
Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, B.C. has seen five consecutive months of over 100 drug overdose deaths. Over 170 people died per month in May, June, and July 2020.