The opioid crisis continues to be a top priority for us and public health organizations across the province. BC’s opioid overdose crisis has continued its unprecedented escalation over the past three years, the rate of overdose deaths in BC 2018 remaining consistent with that of 2017.
Much like in recent years, the College is working hard to help address this issue, from raising awareness of the effects stigma can have on patient care, to continuing to promote Naloxone, and implementing new policies and training.
Here is a brief recap of some of the policies and projects we worked on over the past year to help address BC’s opioid crisis:
Understanding How Stigma can Impact Patient Care and Contribute to Overdose Deaths
Stigma involves negative attitudes (prejudice) and negative behaviours (discrimination) towards people with substance use and mental health problems. Within the context of healthcare, stigma often has negative impacts on patient health, creating barriers to access, and contributing to shame, isolation, risk taking and overdoses.
As pharmacy professionals, we are required to always protect and promote the health and well-being of patients and practice respect for patients.
Learn more about stigma and how it relates to the opioid crisis in this special message from our past Board Chair on understanding how stigma can impact patient care.
Collaborating with the Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions on Addressing Stigma
In June 2018, the College invited Regan Hansen, Director of the Partnerships and Engagement Branch at the Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions to present to the Board on the implementation and evaluation of the Province of BC’s multi-channel marketing campaign – StopOverdoseBC.ca – aimed at disrupting common stereotypes of people who use drugs.
We are excited to welcome Regan Hansen, Director of the Partnership and Engagement Branch, Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions, to talk about Stop Overdose campaign. People who use drugs are real people. https://t.co/cRvRjTULhr #CPBCBoard pic.twitter.com/azFfeg2icq
— BC Pharmacists (@BCPharmacists) June 15, 2018
The College also expanded its Opioid Overdose and Naloxone website to include many of the Stop Overdose BC campaign’s information and resources.
The College also collaborated with the Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions to distribute posters and bookmarks to libraries and community centers across BC which included information on Naloxone as well as content from the StopOverdoseBC campaign focused on addressing stigma. Over 100,000 bookmarks were distributed through 80 libraries in BC, while posters were also distributed to 55 community centres across BC.
Opioid Crisis and BC’s First Nations Communities
As part of the ongoing strategy to reduce harm from opioid drug use and save lives, the First Nations Health Authority added Naloxone nasal spray as a benefit in April 4, 2018.
Nasal Naloxone is the same chemical compound as injection Naloxone. Both reverse the effects of an opioid overdose – the only difference is the delivery method.
As part of the ongoing strategy to reduce harm from opioid drug use and save lives, the First Nations Health Authority has added Naloxone nasal spray as a benefit, effective April 4, 2018. Learn more at: https://t.co/WvJ1xQEkgI pic.twitter.com/Uus6HPZBes
— BC Pharmacists (@BCPharmacists) May 1, 2018
Nasal Naloxone provides people with a fear of needles, or those living in communities where needles are stigmatized, with an easier option for responding to opioid overdoses.
First Nations in BC can request Nasal Naloxone directly from their pharmacy – they do not require a prescription from a doctor or nurse practitioner.
To support this change, the College updated its Naloxone Resources website to include information on intranasal naloxone and helped build awareness of this change through ReadLinks, the College’s newsletter, and social media.
Understanding the disproportionate impact the Opioid Crisis has on BC’s First Nations Communities
BC’s opioid crisis has had a disproportionately severe impact on the province’s First Nations peoples and communities.
While substance use is common across BC regardless of ethnicity, socioeconomic status or sexual orientation, First Nations people are at much higher risk due to the ongoing legacy of colonialism, intergenerational trauma, systematic racism and barriers to accessing vital health care services and addiction treatment.
First Nations comprise just 3.4% of BC’s total population, yet they experience 13% of all overdose deaths. First Nations people in BC are four times more likely than non-First Nations to die from an overdose.
First Nations women are also uniquely impacted. In 2018, 39% of all fatal overdoses for First Nations are among women, compared with a rate of 17% for non-First Nations deaths. (Data from “First Nations Opioid Overdose Deaths Rise in 2018”.)
According to @fnha opioid overdose crisis disproportionately impacts first nations. 14% of all overdose events in BC involve first nations people, 10% of all overdose deaths in BC involved first nations people. #CPBCBoard pic.twitter.com/0b9adxDYs5
— BC Pharmacists (@BCPharmacists) June 15, 2018
This makes culturally safe health services especially important to help reduce barriers to accessing care – something the College is working towards through its commitment to improving cultural humility and safety for First Nations in BC.