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Posts Tagged "crisis"

31Aug

Woman refuses to burn out her torch as she marks Overdose Awareness Day, crisis

by admin


Tabitha Montgomery with free materials she’s distributing to B.C. libraries.


Francis Georgian / Postmedia News

It was during the International Overdose Awareness Day activities last year when Tabitha Montgomery really noticed it — events that had once been rallies had become vigils.

“There was a feeling that no one was listening. That it was not making a difference,” she recalled Saturday as she set up an information booth at the Vancouver Public Library.

Montgomery’s booth was one of several awareness activities happening in B.C. this weekend to mark International Overdose Awareness Day, a global movement designed to remember those who have died from drug overdoses. And to push for change.

However, some advocacy groups that organized activities in the past were noticeably absent from this year’s list of planned events.

Montgomery attributed that to burnout.

“It can be difficult to keep going,” she said. “I want to thank those who have been paving the path for so long.”

Montgomery’s father, her best friend and her daughter’s father all died from drugs. She believes the only way to end the overdose crisis is to remove the stigma and judgment around drug use and addiction and bring the issue fully into mainstream health care.

“This is a torch in my heart,” she said.

While she doesn’t represent any single group, the former director with From Grief to Action has had success asking B.C. libraries to display free books on grief and addiction in their community resources sections. She’s hoping to get the material into more libraries in the months ahead.

(Postmedia News photo by Francis Georgian)

In a statement, B.C. Minister of Mental Health and Addictions Judy Darcy recognized those who have died are “parents, children, co-workers, neighbours, partners, friends and loved ones.”

The politician said the B.C. Centre for Disease Control estimates 4,700 deaths have been averted by scaled-up distribution of Naloxone, more overdose prevention sites and better access to medication-assisted treatment, known as opioid agonist treatment.

“We have a responsibility to each other, our communities and the loved ones we have lost to keep compassion, respect and understanding at the forefront of our minds — and to continue to escalate our response,” she said.

In June, 73 people died of suspected illicit drug overdoses across the province, a 35 per cent drop from June 2018 when 113 people died, according to data collected by the B.C. Coroner’s Service.

But Montgomery said addiction is still treated like a “moral and criminal issue,” rather than a health issue.

“There’s so much misunderstanding,” she said.

Overdose awareness events were held around the world, including in many B.C. cities such as Vancouver, New Westminster, Kamloops, Kelowna, Powell River, Prince George and Quesnel.

In Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, the Overdose Prevention Society supported the creation of a mural in the alley near its injection site. The project wrapped up with an art show.

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26Aug

Opioid crisis: B.C. pleased with Oklahoma Johnson & Johnson ruling as it continues lawsuit

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A sign outside the Johnson & Johnson campus in Irvine, California. A judge has ordered the company to pay $572 million in connection with the opioid crisis in Oklahoma.


Mario Tama / Getty Images

VICTORIA — British Columbia’s attorney general says he is pleased with the findings of a court in Oklahoma that found Johnson & Johnson and its subsidiaries helped fuel the state’s opioid crisis as it ordered the company to pay US $572 million, more than twice the amount another drug manufacturer agreed to pay in a settlement.

The province filed a proposed class-action lawsuit a year ago against dozens of pharmaceutical companies in a bid to recoup the health-care costs associated with opioid addiction.

The untested suit alleges the companies falsely marketed opioids as less addictive than other pain drugs and helped trigger an overdose crisis that has killed thousands since OxyContin was introduced to the Canadian market in 1996.

David Eby likened the aim of the lawsuit in B.C. to the one in Oklahoma.

“The lawsuit we launched in 2018 holds pharmaceutical companies similarly accountable for the harm they have done to British Columbians and for the financial burdens they have placed on our health care system,” he alleged in a statement on Monday.


B.C. Attorney General David Eby.

CHAD HIPOLITO /

PNG

“Along with our recently enacted Opioid Damages and Health Care Costs Recovery Act, this measure is another example of the work that this government is undertaking every day to address the ongoing opioid crisis and build a better system of care and support for British Columbians.”

The civil claim filed by the B.C. government names the maker of OxyContin — Purdue Pharma Inc. — as well as other major drug manufacturers, and also targets pharmacies, alleging they should have known the quantities of opioids they were distributing exceeded any legitimate market.

None of the allegations contained in the civil claim has been proven in court.

A statement of defence from Purdue Pharma could not be found on the B.C. Supreme Court website on Monday, but in a previous statement the company said it followed all of Health Canada’s regulations, including those governing marketing. The company also said it has adhered to the code of ethical practices as a member of Innovative Medicines Canada, a pharmaceutical industry organization that works with governments, insurance companies and health-care professionals.

“Purdue Pharma (Canada) is deeply concerned about the opioids crisis, in British Columbia, and right across Canada,” the company said in a statement after B.C. filed its lawsuit.


Purdue Pharma, the makers of the prescription painkiller OxyContin, are targeted in a proposed class action lawsuit filed by the B.C. government.

George Frey /

REUTERS

“The opioids crisis is a complex and multi-faceted public health issue that involves both prescription opioids and, increasingly, illegally produced and consumed opioids, as indicated in Health Canada’s latest quarterly monitoring report. All stakeholders, including the pharmaceutical industry, have a role to play in providing practical and sustainable solutions.”

Earlier this year, the Ontario government said it plans to join B.C.’s proposed lawsuit.

In Oklahoma, Cleveland County District Judge Thad Balkman’s ruling followed the first state opioid case to make it to trial and could help shape negotiations over roughly 1,500 similar lawsuits filed by state, local and tribal governments consolidated before a federal judge in Ohio.

“The opioid crisis has ravaged the state of Oklahoma,” Balkman said before announcing the judgment. “It must be abated immediately.”

An attorney for the companies said they plan to appeal the ruling to the Oklahoma Supreme Court.

Before Oklahoma’s trial began May 28, the state reached settlements with two other defendant groups — a $270-million deal with Purdue Pharma and an $85-million settlement with Israeli-owned Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd.

Oklahoma argued the companies and their subsidiaries created a public nuisance by launching an aggressive and allegedly misleading marketing campaign that overstated how effective the drugs were for treating chronic pain and understated the risk of addiction.

5Jun

Rapid response to B.C.’s overdose crisis saved thousands of lives: report

by admin


Firefighters and BC Ambulance paramedics in Vancouver take a woman who suffered an fentanyl and heroin overdose to the hospital, in January, 2018.


Jason Payne / PNG

A study by the British Columbia Centre for Disease Control says the rapid harm-reduction response to the province’s overdose crisis saved more than 3,000 lives during the peak of the emergency.

Researchers looked at a 20-month period from April 2016 to December 2017 when 2,177 people died of an overdose, concluding that the number of deaths in B.C. would have been two and a half times higher.

The study gives three programs the credit: take-home naloxone which saved almost 1,600 lives, the expansion of overdose prevention services, stopping 230 deaths, and increased access to treatment that saved 590 lives.

The centre’s Dr. Mike Irvine led the research and says despite the highly toxic street drug supply, the average probability of death from accidental overdose decreased because of the services provided to keep people alive.

Mental Health and Addictions Minister Judy Darcy says the study speaks to the importance of harm reduction and the services are essential to turning the tide in the overdose crisis.

The province declared a health emergency over the crisis in April 2016 and the centre says in a news release that overdose remains the leading cause of preventable death in the province.


A Vancouver Fire Department Medical Unit responds to an unresponsive man after the male injected a drug, in the Downtown Eastside at Vancouver in December 2016.

RICHARD LAM /

PNG

Irvine says their study is the among the first evidence that shows a combination of harm reduction and treatment interventions can save lives.

“It is useful information for jurisdictions considering how to respond to the overdose crisis.”

Overdose deaths increased rapidly in 2016, coinciding with the introduction of the powerful opioid fentanyl into the illicit drug supply.

Fentanyl or its analogues were detected in 87 per cent of all illicit overdose deaths last year.

Jane Buxton, the harm reduction lead at the B.C. Centre for Disease Control, says the take-home naloxone program was already in place when the crisis emerged, allowing them to quickly expand the program to help save lives.

“Since the program ramped up in mid-2016 in response to the ongoing crisis, we’ve distributed between 4,000 and 5,000 kits every month.”

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28May

Daphne Bramham: More needed to redress the tragic fact that Indigenous people are disproportionately victims of opioid crisis

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Overdose deaths linked to illicit fentanyl-laced drugs rose 21 per cent last year among First Nations people in B.C. even as there was a glimmer of hope that the crisis may have peaked among the general population.

Since the crisis began four years ago, B.C. Indigenous people have been overrepresented in the deadly count. Last year, they accounted for 13 per cent of the deaths, while making up 3.4 per cent of the provincial population.

Put another way, First Nations people were 4.2 times more likely to suffer a fatal overdose and six times more likely to suffer a non-fatal overdose than other British Columbians.

No one is suffering more than First Nations women and girls, who already have the worst health outcomes in Canada because of violence, exploitation and poverty.

They are unique in this epidemic where 80 per cent of the victims in the general population are men. Women, by contrast, account for 39 per cent of First Nations’ overdose fatalities last year and 46 per cent of the non-fatal ones.

They are bearing the brunt of marginalization, says Dr. Evan Adams, chief medical health officer at the First Nations Health Authority. Another measure of that is expected to come next week in the report of the murdered and missing women’s inquiry.

Among the reasons that he suggests for the widening gap between First Nations’ and the general population’s statistics are the effects of colonization including residential schools, the lack of social supports, childhood experiences and limited access to safe spaces and services.

The litany of dreadful statistics compiled by the provincial coroner’s office was read out Monday against the backdrop of a quilt with the names of some of the hundreds who have died. Among those names was Max, the son of the health authority’s knowledge keeper, Syexwaliya. Max died 12 days before his 41st birthday in March 2018.

“My son was just too lost,” she said. “I couldn’t do anything for him. I had to love and accept him as he was.”

Still, Syexwaliya takes heart from the statistics.

“The statistics make me feel that Indigenous people aren’t invisible and what’s brought out in the statistics and in the reports means that work is being done,” she said.

Addiction is a disease of pain — physical, emotional, mental and spiritual. Addiction piles tragedy on tragedy.

“It’s a journey of pain, a journey of suffering and a journey of seeking health services that couldn’t be found,” said the chair of the health authority, Grand Chief Doug Kelly.

Too many Canadians, too many British Columbians and too many First Nations people have already died, but Kelly said that for Indigenous people, things are not getting better. They’re getting worse, especially for those living in cities and most especially for women.

Overdose hot spots include the usual ones: Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, the Fraser Valley, Chilliwack, Nanaimo, Victoria and Prince George. But for First Nations people, there’s also Campbell River and Kamloops.

Those stark differences mean distinct and targeted solutions are required. As Canada’s first Indigenous health authority, the First Nations authority (with its unofficial motto of “no decisions about us, without us”) is well positioned to do that.

With a goal of addressing causes of addiction, it has its own four pillars approach: preventing people from dying, reducing the harm of those who are using, creating a range of accessible treatments and supporting people on their healing journey.

The authority also strongly supports the call from B.C.’s chief medical health officer to decriminalize possession of all drugs for personal use as has been done in Portugal. (The suggestion was quickly shot down by the B.C. government, which says that could only be accomplished with federal legislation.)

Among the reasons Kelly cites are yet more terrible statistics.

Of Canada’s female offenders in federal prisons, Public Safety Canada reported last summer that 43 per cent are Indigenous. In youth detention, Indigenous kids account for 46 per cent of all admissions — a jump of 25 per cent in a decade.

Addiction is often contributing factor in the crimes committed, as is fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (although the report said there is no evidence that FASD is more prevalent among First Nations than other populations).

Because so many First Nations women are incarcerated, it means their children often end up in government care or with relatives, which only exacerbates the cycle of childhood trauma, loss and addiction.

So far, the First Nations Health Authority has spent $2.4 million on harm-reduction programs. It’s trained more than 2,430 people in 180 communities how to use naloxone to reverse fentanyl overdoses, has 180 “harm-reduction champions” and peer coordinators in all five regions.

But the biggest barrier is the one that led to Max’s death — lack of accessible treatment.

Last week, FNHA and the B.C. government committed $20 million each to  build treatment centres in Vancouver and Surrey and promised to upgrade six existing ones. Kelly says that’s great. But it’s not enough. They’re still waiting for another $20 million from the federal government for construction.

Still, where will the operating money come from? That’s the next multi-million-dollar question. But it must be found.

Now that there is evidence that First Nations communities — and women in particularly — are suffering so disproportionately, ignoring them is unconscionable.

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24Apr

Daphne Bramham: Decriminalization alone won’t end B.C.’s overdose crisis

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A man injects drugs in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2019. Despite significant efforts to combat overdose deaths in British Columbia, the provincial coroner says illicit drug overdose deaths increased to 1,489, just over the 2017 death total.


JONATHAN HAYWARD / THE CANADIAN PRESS

The problem with the provincial health officer’s special report recommending decriminalization of all illicit drug users  is that Dr. Bonnie Henry chose to make that her only recommendation.

Three years after a public health emergency was declared because of an epidemic of deaths from illicit opioids, B.C. still has no comprehensive addictions strategy.

It has a stunning lack of treatment services, no universal access to services, no simple pathway to what few services there are, no provincial standards or regulation of privately operated treatment and recovery homes services.

Government ministries such as health, mental health and addictions services, social development and housing remain siloed and the root causes of addiction remain largely unaddressed.

While there has been substantial investment in harm-reduction measures including overdose prevention sites, free naloxone kits (to reverse an opioid overdose), low-barrier shelters and poverty reduction, the needs are greater.

Overdose deaths have only hit a plateau – not dropped. Every day, four people British Columbians die.

Yet, Henry is adamant that decriminalization is the most important next step.

“It’s about a focus and an intent,” she said. “Instead of police focusing on requirement of the Criminal Code, it builds off-ramps to connect with services. And, that in itself, ensures those systems are built.”

The majority of those who have died of overdoses were young men using alone at home. Without fear of being arrested and with the stigma of addiction being reduced, the expectation is that addicts or recreational users would be more likely to go to a supervised injection site, use with a friend (with a naloxone kit at the ready) or call for help if they overdose.

Henry calls decriminalization “a necessary next step to stop the death toll from rising and to make harm-reduction services more readily available.”

But it’s a question whether those recreational users would do that, because many addicts say that they use alone for a variety of reasons — not least of which is that they don’t want to share their drugs or they don’t want anyone to know what they do when they’re high.

The report recommended two options for British Columbia to work around the Criminal Code provisions.

Solicitor General Mike Farnworth firmly and quickly said no to both. But he noted there are pilot projects in Vancouver, Abbotsford and Vernon where rather than charging for possession, police are linking users with services. An evaluation of those will be completed in the fall and, depending on the results, they may be expended to other communities.

Henry makes no secret of the fact that her ultimate goals for Canada are full legalization and regulation of all drugs to ensure that there is a safe supply. If that were to happen, Canada would be the first in the world to do that.

Portugal is mentioned frequently in the report and by Henry. Possession for personal use was decriminalized more than 20 years ago. But it was done only as part of a comprehensive, drug strategy.

Police still arrest anyone found with illicit drugs. They are taken to a police station where the drugs are weighed. If the amount is above the maximum limit set for personal use, they are charged and go through the criminal justice system.

If the amount is below the limit, tickets are issued and users told to appear at the Commission for the Dissuasion of Drug Use within 24 hours. There, they meet with a social worker or counsellor before going before a three-person tribunal, which recommends a plan for treatment.

People don’t have to comply. But if they are arrested again, the commission can impose community service, require that they seek treatment, impose fines and even confiscate people’s property to pay those fines.

That’s not the kind of decriminalization Henry is recommending. Instead, the onus here would be on police officers – not trained addictions specialists, psychologists or social workers — to connect users with services.

Part of the reason for the difference is that Portugal’s goal wasn’t legalization or keeping addicts alive until they chose to go treatment. Its focus was and is on getting addicts into treatment and recovery so they could resume their place in society.

Harm reduction is only a small part of the Portuguese plan. Its first supervised injection site has only recently opened. But there is free and easy access to methadone (which dampens heroin addicts’ craving for the drug) and free needles to stop the spread of infection.

These harm reduction measures are deemed to temporary bridges to abstinence for all but older, hardcore, long-term heroin users rather than long-term solutions. Of course, fentanyl and carfentanil have yet to be found in its illicit drug supply.

Its treatment services as extensive and include everything from outpatient treatment to three years’ residency in a therapeutic community during which time the users’ families are provided with income supplements.

Nothing in this decriminalization report moves British Columbia anywhere close to that kind of comprehensive system. And until we get there, it’s hard to imagine that this overdose crisis ending anytime soon.

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Twitter: @bramham_daphne


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24Apr

Overdose crisis: BC’s top doctor wants drug possession decriminalized

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B.C.’s top doctor has unveiled a bold proposal to slow the rate of overdose deaths — by decriminalizing possession of a small amount of drugs for personal use.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry’s report, released Wednesday, says it is known around the world that the “war on drugs” has been a failure, and says the criminalization of non-violent people for possessing a substance for personal use does considerable harm to the person and society.

Specifically, Henry says criminalization increases communicable disease transmission, stigma and drug-related mortality. Incarceration and criminal records exacerbate drug harms by preventing future employment and travel, she adds.

“As the Provincial Health Officer of B.C., I recommend that the Province of B.C. urgently move to decriminalize people who possess controlled substances for personal use,” Henry says.

“This is a fundamental underpinning and necessary next step for the continued provincial response to the overdose crisis in B.C.”

Henry’s report, called “Stopping the Harm: Decriminalization of People Who Use Drugs in B.C.,” says that despite expanded harm-reduction activities and interventions in the province, and increased access to evidence-based treatment, an average of four people continue to die in B.C. each day due to the toxic illegal drug supply.

“Decriminalization of people who use controlled drugs is an effective public health approach to drug policy in other jurisdictions and is the most appropriate option for B.C. at this time,” Henry says.

“While law enforcement in B.C. exercise their discretion when considering possession charges, such as the presence of harmful behaviour or identified need for treatment services, the application of the law is inconsistent across communities. As such, there is a need for a provincial-level commitment to support an official policy to decriminalize people who use drugs.”

Henry says decriminalization would allow law enforcement to work with health and social systems to help connect people with treatment and other social services.

In 2001, Portugal decriminalized all drugs for personal use in response to a surge in heroin use.

Henry said there are two means by which to decriminalize in B.C. One would use provincial legislation to allow the Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor to set provincial priorities, such as declaring a public health and harm reduction approach as a priority for police to apply when toward simple possession. The other would develop a new regulation under the Police Act that would add a provision preventing police from expending resources on simple possession offences under Section 4(1) of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.


Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry answers questions during a press conference about the release of the latest provincial statistics by the BC Coroners Service at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Thursday, February 7, 2019.

CHAD HIPOLITO /

THE CANADIAN PRESS

The report explains decriminalization as follows: “Decriminalization involves removing an action or behaviour from the scope of the criminal justice system. In the context of controlled substances, it is typically focused on possession and consumption of drugs for personal use and does not set out a system or structure for production, distribution, or sale of controlled substances.

“Decriminalization does not exclude the application of fines or administrative penalties. For example, if possession of drugs for personal use was decriminalized (as is the case in Portugal), the drug itself is still illegal, but possessing it does not lead to criminal sanctions (unless the possession is at a trafficking level).”

More to come.

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28Feb

Daphne Bramham: First Nations’ solution to a modern, medical crisis

by admin

Ending Canada’s opioid overdose crisis will likely require much more than sophisticated drug therapies. In fact, it might mean following the lead of First Nations health-care providers and transforming how we think about and deliver medical services.

First Nations people are dying of opioid overdoses at three times the rate of the general population. Hidden in that data are Canada’s most-neglected victims — Indigenous women.

Unlike in the general population where men comprise 80 per cent of the victims, Indigenous women are as likely to overdose or die as their brothers, fathers, husbands and sons.

They are eight times more likely to overdose than other women, and five times more likely to die from an overdose.

It’s not really surprising, says Dr. Evan Adams, the First Nations Health Authority’s chief medical health officer. The terrible numbers track other devastating indicators of how their health and longevity diverge from those of other Canadians.

“A lot of First Nations women who have substance-use disorders are exploited women. They are women who are victimized by the sex trade. They’re victimized by their partners,” said Adams, who worked for five years in Vancouver’s notorious Downtown Eastside, the epicentre of Canada’s opioid crisis.

What the opioid crisis highlights for him is the endemic problem of the western medical model, where people go passively to doctors’ offices and say, “Heal me.”


Dr. Evan Adams is the Chief Medical Officer for the First Nations Health Authority.

Jason Payne /

PNG

“Our (First Nations) model is that the doctor gives you a chance to get better. But, you make yourself better,” he said. “It’s your family that does most of the work of helping you get better, not that doctor who you visit for 15 minutes every week, if you’re lucky.”

Unlike in the western model, healing and wellness in the traditional Indigenous way involve mind, body and spirit. For First Nations men and women to achieve wellness, Adams said they require much more than medicine.

“They need healers who can do ceremony. Maybe they need love. They need justice.

“How can a woman recover from opioid use disorder when you won’t let her see her children? It’s disgusting,” he said.

The day Adams and I met, the FNHA offices were being “swept” by a group of elders carrying cedar boughs and candles using traditional ceremonies to restore the spirits of the people who work there.

“Some people would say an elder is less trained in opioids than an addictions physician,” Adams said. “But wouldn’t it be nice to have both?”

It’s not that FNHA rejects modern medicine. It continues to expand access to opioid agonist treatments such as methadone and Suboxone, which quell cravings, making it available at all FNHA nursing stations and at four of the nine FNHA-funded residential treatment centres. FNHA reimburses treatment fees charged by private clinics and has spent $2.4 million in grants to 55 communities for harm-reduction programs.

Yet, for Adams and his staff, drug therapies are only a small part of what he calls harm reduction’s suite of services.


The Crosstown Clinic in downtown Vancouver.

JONATHAN HAYWARD /

THE CANADIAN PRESS

“Harm reduction is not just, ‘Let’s make sure you don’t overdose.’ It’s the whole person that you have to treat, not just this one aspect of the person that is craving opioids.”

To incorporate First Nations wisdom into other programs, FNHA created two peer coordinator jobs at the Crosstown Clinic in the Downtown Eastside. Its compassion inclusion initiative has engaged another 144 Indigenous people with lived experience across B.C., and its Indigenous wellness team has taught indigenous harm-reduction and wellness programs in 180 communities.

“Opioid use disorder is everyone’s business. It’s yours and it’s mine and it’s everyone around us. It’s not just the domain of physicians with 24 years of training,” he said. “Why can’t Grandma help, or a family member?”

What concerns Adams about the response to the opioid crisis that is heavily grounded in the medical model is that it could widen the gap between his people and mainstream Canadians.

Indigenous people don’t necessarily trust health providers who don’t look like them or where there is no acknowledgment of the historical trauma they have suffered and their unique experiences in the world.

That’s just one more reason why the FHNA, which is unique in Canada, is so adamant that it must transform the way health care is delivered to its people so that they are empowered to help in their own healing within their own circles of trusted friends, family and elders.

This current crisis is rooted in the western medical model. The seeds were sown by an aggressive marketing campaign by Purdue Pharma, which falsely promoted its Oxycodone as being non-addictive. What followed was an epidemic of opioid over-prescription by physicians and other health-care professionals that eventually created a demand for synthetic opioids on the black market.

With so many deaths and no end in sight, this might be the time for all of us to reconsider whether the best responses to this crisis ought to be done within a much broader context of healing and an expanded understanding of what wellness really means.

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Twitter: @bramham_daphne


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20Jan

Tech solutions to overdose crisis raise questions of accessibility and practicality

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As the opioid crisis rages on in Canada and the U.S., tech developers and researchers are joining the fight to stem overdose deaths.

But while advocates say anything that can bring down the death toll is welcomed — particularly in B.C., where an average of four people die per day due to a fatal illicit drug overdose — questions remain about the accessibility and practicality of tech solutions.

One of the innovations being proposed currently is a smartphone app developed by researchers at the University of Washington called “Second Chance.”  

App monitors breathing patterns

The team, which has tested part of the app’s function at the supervised injection site Insite in Vancouver, and published its findings this month in Science Translational Medicine, says the app acts as an alarm system that can detect when someone overdoses.

“So the key thing here is to connect people who are overdosing to this life-saving intervention, and that’s what we aim to provide with this app,” said lead author Rajalakshmi Nandakumar, a doctoral student in the Allen School of Computer Science and Engineering at the University of Washington.

“The app basically monitors their breathing when they … engage in high-risk behavior. And when they’re about to overdose, it automatically connects them to either a pre-set emergency number or sometimes [it’s] escalated to emergency services.”

Nandakumar says the app detects a person’s breathing pattern by converting a phone’s microphone and speaker into a sonar device. If the user’s breathing slows, or even stops in the case of an overdose, it will alert the pre-set emergency contact about the user’s location so they can administer naloxone and reverse the overdose.

Brave’s “Be Safe” smartphone app can monitor a drug user in real-time and will reveal their location to “supporters” if it detects an overdose. (Submitted by Brave)

Brave, a co-op based in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, is also exploring several options, including wearable technology and an app. The app provides remote supervision so that someone using drugs alone can be monitored in real time. If the user stops responding, the app reveals the user’s location, so emergency responders can come help.

But as well-intentioned as the technology is, even developers themselves acknowledge there are limitations.

Nandakumar says she understands that not everyone owns a smartphone. And Brave CEO Gordon Casey says his products will probably only get buy-in if they’re low-cost or even free.

“And that for us would be like a much further, down-the-line next step for the wearable technology,” he said.

“If we could make one that works, then would it be possible to make one that’s super, super cheap, and that you can hand it out along with clean needles and that sort of thing?”

All solutions worth exploring, advocate says

Sarah Blyth, who founded the Overdose Prevention Society in the Downtown Eastside, believes that when it comes to saving lives, nothing will beat a safe drug supply or having someone immediately on hand to administer naloxone.

But she says all solutions to the opioid crisis are worth exploring.

“The best thing to do is be at an overdose prevention site, or with a friend,” she said.

“Never use alone. Always use a little bit first. And these technologies are good for those who will not do any of these other things because people are still dying. And so we need all kinds of different responses for different people.”


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10Jan

B.C. gaming branch overhauling crisis services for problem gamblers

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The B.C. Lottery Corporation reported net income of $1.4 billion from casinos and lotteries in the 2017-18 fiscal year, based on record revenue of $3.3 billion.


The B.C. Lottery Corporation reported net income of $1.4 billion from casinos and lotteries in the 2017-18 fiscal year, based on record revenue of $3.3 billion.


Stuart Davis / PNG files

Almost 2,400 people were referred to counselling by the province’s crisis line for problem gamblers last year, but only half actually attended.

The current crisis-line service provider 211 British Columbia Services Society fields 3,243 calls a year, or 62 per week, and referred 2,373 people to a problem gambling counsellor.

According to the Gaming Policy and Enforcement Branch’s annual report, 1,269 people received those services. Early intervention services and clinical counselling were delivered to a total of 1,612 people.

According to the Ministry of the Attorney General, 77 per cent of counselling clients showed “significant improvement.”

The branch is about to overhaul its crisis services for problem gamblers to include online chat support and mobile phone text support. Counselling is offered at no charge to anyone who calls for help.

Enhancements are to include a personal non-automated response to callers in less than one-and-a-half minutes, with service 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The branch also delivered 2,387 problem gambling prevention presentations to more than 86,000 people last year and organized a pilot program for early intervention counselling for at-risk gamblers.

But the most potent weapon in their toolbox is a voluntary self-exclusion program in which people can register to be barred from casinos, bingo halls or B.C. Lottery Corporation’s Playnow.com gaming website for as little as six months and up to three years.

Self-excluded gamblers were identified and removed from casinos more than 9,500 times last fiscal year.

People who self-exclude are escorted from gaming facilities if they are detected by security staff. About 10,000 people are registered for exclusion, about 7,000 from facilities and 3,000 from Playnow.com.

Everyone who registers is offered free counselling.

BCLC is investing in ID scanners and uses licence plate readers to help identify people in the program. Lookout bulletins are issued if a participant tries repeatedly to enter casinos.

While some people registered with the program have evaded security, they are ineligible to collect jackpots if they win. Nonetheless, problem gamblers can and do defeat the system, sometimes with terrible consequences.

Tyler Hatch claims to have lost $550,000 in disability payments on online lottery games and attempted to sue B.C. lottery officials for failing to intervene and help him.

Hatch received a lump-sum payout of $550,000 in disability benefits he had begun receiving after being diagnosed with a major depressive disorder and bipolar disorder.

He soon gambled away the entirety of his lump-sum payment settlement and had incurred approximately $50,000 in consumer credit debt, according to court documents. The lawsuit was dropped a few weeks after it was filed.

Attorney-General David Eby told media this week that improvements to the program will be considered as part of a comprehensive review of the Gaming Control Act triggered by reports of widespread money laundering through B.C. casinos.


Help for gamblers gets the smallest slice of the pie.

Government of BC

BCLC reported net income of $1.4 billion from casinos and lotteries in the 2017-18 fiscal year, based on record revenue of $3.3 billion.

That’s nearly $90 million more than expected and the Crown corporation achieved a “player satisfaction” rate of 80 per cent in the process, according to a third party survey.

Casino slot machines and table games showed the strongest growth. There were 18 casinos, 18 community gaming centres and five commercial bingo halls hosting BCLC games in operation last year.

The newly approved Cascade Casino Delta is expected to open in 2020 on the site of the Delta Town & Country Inn at the junction of Highways 99 and 17A.

Ten per cent of the casino’s profit will go to the City of Richmond, a stipend Gateway Casinos estimates will be between $1.5 million and $3 million a year.

Additional casinos are in the very early planning stages for Greater Victoria and the North Shore in Metro Vancouver, according to BCLC.

Income from gambling was used by the province to fund government services in fiscal 2017-18, such as:

• health care and education, $964 million.

• health research, $147 million.

• community non-profit organizations, $140 million.

• local governments that host casinos, $108 million.

• problem gambling services, $5.6 million.

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With files from The Province.

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27Dec

BC overdose crisis continues with 120 suspected deaths in November

by admin


The three cities experiencing the highest number of illicit drug overdoses are Vancouver, Surrey and Victoria.


JONATHAN HAYWARD / THE CANADIAN PRESS

VANCOUVER — There were 120 suspected drug overdose deaths in British Columbia last month, representing a 13 per cent increase over the number of deaths in the same month last year.

The B.C. Coroners Service says an average of four people died every day last month from an illicit drug overdose.

The latest figures show 1,380 people died by overdose between Jan. 1 and Nov. 30, 2018, almost exactly the same number of dead between Jan. 1 and Nov. 30, 2017.

The service says the majority of those dying from overdoses are men who are 30 to 59 years old, and most overdoses are occurring indoors.

The three cities experiencing the highest number of illicit drug overdoses are Vancouver, Surrey and Victoria.

The coroners service says 1,486 people died of overdoses in B.C. last year.

It is expected to announce the overall death toll for 2018 next month.


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