In April 2016 Dr. Perry Kendall declared a public health emergency related to the increased incidence of drug-related overdoses in B.C.

As you are aware, in April 2016 Dr. Perry Kendall declared a public health emergency related to the increased incidence of drug-related overdoses in B.C. In our catchment area of 1.8 million people, the overdose crisis has touched all our communities.

As of the end of December 2016, there were 914 overdose deaths reported in B.C., of which 301 were in communities across Fraser Health. Nearly 67%, (202 of 301) occurred in the communities of Surrey - 108, Abbotsford - 37, Maple Ridge – 27, and Langley – 30.

We want to acknowledge the work that you have underway as it relates to responding to the opioid crisis in your communities. As the overdose risk remains a priority provincially and regionally, the following information is intended to assist in the development of plans/strategies in your community.

Many people at highest risk of overdose may have opioid use disorders, for which they are not engaged and retained in effective treatment. Opioid agonist treatments (OAT)—medications such as buprenorphine/naloxone, or Suboxone®, and methadone—are the most effective, evidence-based treatments in reducing non-medical use of opioids, improving physical health and reducing death rates. We’re working to double capacity for opioid agonist treatment at two sites in Surrey, and are enhancing services in Abbotsford and Maple Ridge.

The British Columbia Centre on Substance Use (BCCSU) is a new provincial resource for clinical guidance, medical education and scientific research on addictions. The BCCSU has been working with regional Divisions of Family Practice to provide educational sessions on opioid use disorder treatment with buprenorphine/naloxone. If you are interested in hosting an educational session for your Divisions on these new guidelines, please contact Cheyenne Johnson (cheyenne.johnson@cfenet.ubc.ca). As of July 1, 2016, the College of Physicians and Surgeons of BC (CPSBC) has removed the requirement for physicians to hold a methadone license in order to prescribe buprenorphine/naloxone (brand name Suboxone™), meaning that now, once trained, every physician in B.C. is able to prescribe this live-saving medication without a special exemption.

The BCCSU is also able to provide addiction treatment expert support for GPs through the provincial Rapid Access to Consultative Expertise (RACE) shared care telephone advice line. It is available for general practice or other physicians and is open Monday through Friday, from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., 1-877-696-2131.

Additionally, the Practice Support Program is available to offer the Chronic Pain Management Module to support family physicians in your local communities. You may coordinate this through your respective Practice Support Program leads or via the Regional Practice Support Program committee.

Finally, Fraser Health Authority has an informative website on overdose prevention and responses available at www.fraserhealth.ca/overdose with information on where you can get Naloxone and Monthly Data Reports as well as other resources and tools.

To contact the Office of the Medical Health Officer, please call 604-587-3828 or 1-877-342-6467 (M-F, 0830-1630 hrs) or after hours at 604-527-4806.

Thank you for your attention to this important matter.


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