British Columbia is taking action on reducing the amount of deaths and people impacted by the opioid crisis by universally covering treatments for those with addiction issues.
As of June 6th, opioid agonist treatment (OAT) medications will be covered by the province’s universal coverage plan, making it free for all who have an active medical services plan (MSP).
“Improving access to medication is an important part of strengthening the public health-care system,” said Adrian Dix, Minister of Health.
“By reducing financial barriers to opioid agonist treatment medication, we’re making it easier for people to get the care they need and helping create more equitable health outcomes for people in BC.”
OAT is medication-assisted treatment, an accessible option for those who struggle with opioid use disorder.
Experts say this method helps with keeping people in treatment programs who are prone to relapse. OAT is also proven to reduce the risk of death.
OAT may be similar to safe supply methods, but it differs in many ways too. Safe supply is all about harm reduction — pharmaceutical alternatives to opioids are given to help people in getting their drugs from somewhere other than the street.
In many occasions, safe supply is a first step that is taken before people begin OAT, or some other type of treatment.
“The toxic drug crisis continues to claim lives at an unprecedented rate,” said Jennifer Whiteside, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions. “When people reach out for help, we want them met with support regardless of the size of their pocketbook.”
“Removing these cost barriers to medication-assisted treatment will help more people stabilize their lives, prevent deaths and stay on their journey to wellness as our government continues to build a system of mental-health and addictions care that works for everyone.”
In 2021, over 1,600 people had to pay out of pocket for OAT of the nearly 34,500 who accessed the program.
Going forward, everyone will have access to this free treatment option.