BC nurses and physicians can now prescribe alternatives to street drugs

Sep 16 2020, 9:52 am

In an effort to slow the overdose crisis and ultimately save lives, BC’s Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry issued a public health Wednesday morning to increase the number of health professionals authorized to help people at risk for overdoses access safer alternatives to the toxic street drug supply.

The order, issued under the Health Professions Act, authorizes registered nurses and registered psychiatric nurses to prescribe pharmaceutical alternatives to street drugs to help separate more people from the poisoned street drug supply to save lives and provide opportunities for ongoing care, treatment and support.

New nursing standards will also be introduced, along with training and education, and access to expert consultation and pathways to connect people to broader addictions and primary care.

“We know the pandemic has only made the street drug supply in B.C. more toxic than ever, putting people who use drugs at extremely high risk for overdose,” Henry said. “Giving physicians and nurse practitioners the ability to prescribe safer pharmaceutical alternatives has been critical to saving lives and linking more people to treatment and other health and social services”

Henry said she is issuing the order “to expand the health professionals who are able to provide safer, accessible alternatives to the toxic street drug supply and help more people find their pathway to hope.”

In addition to the public health order, the Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions and the Ministry of Health are working with the Office of the Provincial Health Officer to develop an updated policy directive for prescribers and health authorities, which builds on the existing risk mitigation clinical guidance released in March 2020 in partnership with the BC Centre on Substance Use.

“Before the COVID-19 pandemic began, B.C. was making progress and overdose deaths were coming down for the first time since 2012,” said Judy Darcy, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions. “We’re seeing these tragic spikes in deaths across Canada, but I’m proud that we’re the only government responding across the full continuum of care by providing more overdose prevention services and outreach teams, doubling youth treatment beds, increasing adult beds and counselling services.”

The policy directive is being urgently finalized and is expected to be released as soon as possible in order to:

  • Expand eligibility criteria to prioritize reducing overdose events and deaths, and reach individuals with opioid-use disorder, other substance-use disorders or individuals with a history of accessing the toxic street drug supply who are at high risk of overdose and other drug-related harms;
  • Carefully expand the types of medications that can be prescribed and dispensed by doctors, pharmacists and nurses;
  • Increase access points to allow for dispensing medications from health authorities and community pharmacies;
  • Continue to commit to ongoing evaluation and monitoring and support evidence-based care planning.

In addition to the public health order, the Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions and the Ministry of Health are working with the Office of the Provincial Health Officer to develop an updated policy directive for prescribers and health authorities, which builds on the existing risk mitigation clinical guidance released in March 2020 in partnership with the BC Centre on Substance Use.

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT