For the first time, B.C.'s provincial health officer has exercised emergency powers under the Public Health Act in response to a surge in drug-related overdoses.
On April 14, Perry Kendall declared a public health emergency, making B.C. the first province to take this action due to drug overdoses.
The measure will allow B.C. medical officers to collect real-time information on overdoses in order to identify right away where risks are occuring and to take proactive steps to warn and protect people using drugs. Currently, information on overdoses is only reported if someone dies, with a delay in the data being disseminated.
Kendall stated in a news release that he will be working with various healthcare professionals to determine how to collect and share the information. The data, for both fatal overdoses and recovery from overdoses, will include location, drugs used, and how they were taken.
The information will be collected by the provincial health officer and analyzed by the BC Centre for Disease Control.
In 2015, there were 474 illicit drug overdose deaths in B.C., which was a rise of 30 percent from 365 deaths in 2014.
The largest number of deaths in a single month since 2007 occurred in January with 76 deaths.