Vancouver, BC – Take-home naloxone kits have been given to 42 overdose patients in emergency departments in the past month, suggesting ramped up efforts to get the life-saving antidote into the hands of people who need it are working. The kits, which can reverse opioid overdoses, are now being given to patients who have been treated for overdose and may be at risk for another. So far the kits are available at three emergency departments: Lions Gate, St. Paul’s and BC Children’s hospitals.
“It’s time to take additional actions to make sure that the tragedy of overdoses stop here,” said Health Minister Terry Lake. “By providing take-home naloxone kits, we recognize that the risk of overdose exists, and secondary overdoses can be addressed by being proactive and by providing even more supports.”
By fall 2016, all 14 urgent care centres and emergency departments in the region will have naloxone kits in stock for nurses and doctors to give to patients to take with them upon discharge. There are 58 additional sites, including community health centres and harm reduction services, where people can also access the kits. Eleven of those sites were added this year. (All of the sites are listed on the Toward the Heart website, a Provincial Harm Reduction Program). As well, staff are working with supported housing facilities and homeless shelters to have naloxone available. Approximately 200 staff at Lookout Emergency Aid Society have already been trained to use the kit.
Having naloxone kits widely available is one of the initiatives underway to help address the public health emergency related to the rising number of drug-related overdoses and deaths.
“The rising number of overdose deaths is alarming,” says Dr. Patricia Daly, Chief Medical Health Officer and the Vice President, Public Health for VCH. “Our staff are implementing a comprehensive response plan focusing on attacking the issue from several angles - preventing overdoses, encouraging safer drug use, and providing treatment options for people with substance use disorders.”
Several new locations offering supervised injection services are being considered. The service will be offered at sites where harm reduction programs for injection drug users are already offered. It’s expected the locations will be chosen and applications for the Health Canada exemption will be completed by fall 2016.
Since the majority of overdose patients going to emergency departments in the VCH region are seen at St. Paul’s Hospital, several initiatives focus on caring for clients on site. The St. Paul’s Rapid Access Clinic, opened in June 2016, performs an immediate assessment of patients in the emergency department with substance use disorders and links them to care such as opioid substitution treatment. In partnership with the City of Vancouver and Vancouver Police Department, plans are underway to develop a new mental health and addictions hub at the hospital. The hub will provide quicker psychiatric and substance use response service in a culturally appropriate, trauma-informed way.
“Seventy per cent of overdose patients treated at emergency departments in the region are being seen at St. Paul’s Hospital,” says Scott Harrison, Director of Urban Health & HIV/AIDS at Providence Health Care (PHC). “We are doing everything we can to effectively and compassionately care for these individuals and their families in these difficult times.”
For those struggling with problematic substance use or addiction who want to access treatment, 131 additional spaces for addictions treatment, including withdrawal management (i.e. detox) spaces, will be created.
Additional initiatives are being finalized; details will be released in the coming weeks and months.
All of the initiatives support the work of the newly formed Joint Task Force on Overdose Response. Headed by Provincial Health Officer Dr. Perry Kendall and Director of Police Services Clayton Pecknold, the task force will provide expert leadership and advice to the Province on additional actions to prevent and respond to overdoses in British Columbia. The actions also align with recommendations identified by the BC Overdose Action Exchange.
VCH is responsible for the delivery of $3.4 billion in community, hospital and residential care to more than one million people in communities including Richmond, Vancouver, the North Shore, Sunshine Coast, Sea to Sky corridor, Powell River, Bella Bella and Bella Coola.
PHC is one of Canada's largest faith-based health care organizations, operating 17 health care facilities in Greater Vancouver. PHC operates one of two adult academic health science centres in the province – St. Paul’s Hospital – and performs cutting-edge research in more than 30 clinical specialties. PHC focuses its services on six "populations of emphasis": cardio-pulmonary risks and illnesses, HIV/AIDS, mental health and substance use, renal risks and illness, specialized needs in aging and urban health and is home to the B.C. Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS. www.providencehealthcare.org
Media are invited to the St. Paul’s Hospital Emergency Department for a demonstration on how to administer naloxone.
Friday, July 29, 11 a.m. - noon
St. Paul’s Hospital Emergency Department
(Media please meet communications staff at the information desk just inside the Burrard Street entrance for an escort to the room.)
Vancouver Coastal Health
Phone: (604) 708-5281
Cell: (604) 319-7530
Senior Communications Specialist
Providence Health Care
Phone: (604) 682-2344 extension 66987
Cell: (604) 837-6003