B.C. overdose crisis: New public health order issued after record number of monthly deaths

VANCOUVER — Registered and psychiatric nurses in British Columbia will be able to prescribe safer drugs for people at risk of overdose under a new public health order.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry’s order comes as B.C. experiences a record number of monthly overdose deaths with border closings during the COVID-19 pandemic being blamed for putting more toxic drugs on the streets.

Henry says new nursing standards will be introduced, along with training, education and access to expert consultation.

More than 5,000 people have fatally overdosed in B.C. since the province declared a public health emergency in 2016, but fatalities were declining before COVID-19.

Only doctors and nurse practitioners have been able to prescribe drugs, including substitute medications for illicit-drug users as an alternative to potentially deadly substances on the street.

The latest data from the BC Coroners Service from July shows there were 175 suspected illicit drug toxicity deaths.

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