BC government to spend $500 million on mental health and opioid crisis

Apr 21 2021, 11:48 am

A significant provincial funding infusion of $500 million over the next three years will go towards tackling the escalating mental health and opioid overdose crisis in BC.

The provincial government announced the investment yesterday as part of its 2021 budget, calling it the largest investment in mental health and addictions services in BC history. This “A Pathway to Hope” (APTH) initiative adds to the existing funding that supports ongoing efforts and programs.

“Through Budget 2021, we are accelerating and expanding programs put in place to respond to the overdose crisis. Our plan delivers a wide spectrum of substance-use treatment and recovery services, including more funding for addictions treatment,” said BC Finance Minister Selina Robinson in her budget speech.

“Many of the emergency measures brought in during the pandemic to help keep people alive are now permanent.”

APTH sets aside $330 million for substance abuse and overdose emergency response programs, described as a “full spectrum of treatment and recovery services” for individuals experiencing issues with opioids. This specifically includes $152 million for opioid treatment.

Temporary programs introduced during the pandemic that will become permanent include the new supervised consumption sites, “Assertive Community Treatment” teams, the Lifeguard App, consultative services for healthcare professionals providing substance use treatment, and additional nursing supports.

Additional programs tackling substance abuse include “end-to-end services,” covering initial sobering and assessment, withdrawal management services, and transitioning back into regular life. New funding will support the creation of 195 new substance-use treatment and recovery beds across the province.

Another $75 million will be directed towards improving the access and quality of mental health services, including $14 million to the First Nations Health Authority to provide services to Indigenous peoples, $8 million to expand eating disorder care and maintain suicide prevention services, and $53 million to expand early psychosis intervention programs.

For specific mental health supports for children and young adults, the provincial government will invest $97 million.

It will go towards mental health programs in schools, and expand the number of integrated child and youth teams from five to 20 teams across BC by 2023/2034 to support more school and community-based mental health and substance use services. The number of Foundry Centres will also be expanded from 11 locations and virtual services today to 23 over the same period.

BC Coroners Service reported 2020 was the worst year yet in terms of the number of lives lost from opioid use. There were 1,716 deaths due to illicit drugs in 2020 across the province, representing a 74% increase over the 984 deaths in 2019.

Kenneth ChanKenneth Chan

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