A man pauses at a coffin after carrying it during a memorial march to remember victims of overdose deaths in Vancouver. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

A man pauses at a coffin after carrying it during a memorial march to remember victims of overdose deaths in Vancouver. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

B.C. announces historic half-billion-dollar funding for overdose crisis, mental health

Of it, $152 million will be used to address the opioid crisis and see the creation of 195 new substance use treatment beds

B.C. has earmarked a historic half-billion dollars to focus on mental health and addiction services over the next three fiscal years, as part of the province’s 2021 budget.

“The COVID-19 pandemic is not the only health emergency facing our province,” Finance Minister Selina Robinson said Tuesday (April 20).

A majority of it, $330 million, will go towards substance-use treatment and recovery services in the province, including $152 million to address the opioid crisis and for the creation of 195 new treatment and recovery beds.

This is in accordance with A Pathway to Hope – the government’s long-term strategy to transform its mental health and substance use system from a crisis-response approach to a system based on prevention and early intervention.

READ MORE: B.C. delays 2021 budget, moves to borrow more

B.C. has the country’s highest rate of hospitalization due to mental illness and substance use, according to the province. In 2020, it recorded nine deaths every two days due to the increased toxicity of illicit street-level drugs and many people using alone to adhere to social distancing.

“Thousands of people we have lost to a poisoned drug supply — the parents and siblings, children and colleagues, friends and neighbours whose lives were cut short,” Robinson said.

Overdose prevention and safe consumption sites that have emerged amid the pandemic to help reduce overdose deaths will remain in operation.

READ MORE: B.C. soon to see nurses prescribe opioid alternatives for drug users

The province is planning to ramp up access to overdose-reversing naloxone kits, which have been free to the public since 2019, as well as increase overdose response training. Roughly 241,000 kits were doled out in 2019. An additional 10,000 are said to be shipped to health authorities this year.

Robinson noted the COVID-19 crisis has highlighted the importance of mental health, including the challenges faced by youth.

As part of a new $97 million investment in the mental health of children and youth, 15 additional school districts in B.C. will see integrated teams of mental health and substance use clinicians and Indigenous workers be able to provide quicker, more direct support to students.

Foundry centres that offer mental health and substance use services for British Columbians aged 12 to 24 will also double, from 11 locations to 22.

READ MORE: B.C. announces $2B for affordable, middle-income family home projects

“Many people already struggled with conditions like anxiety, and depression before the pandemic,” noted Sheila Malcolmson, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions in its updated service plans.

“Many more are experiencing mental health struggles due to ongoing disruption of our lives.”

Youth and young adults across the province will find it easier to access early psychosis intervention, for which $53 million has been set aside to expand the early diagnosis programs to all of B.C.

The First Nations Health Authority will be granted $14 million to deliver mental health and addictions services to Indigenous peoples through its own network.

An additional $8 million will be used to expand existing eating disorder treatment and care in provincial health authorities.

READ ALSO: New campgrounds coming to B.C. parks as part of $83M provincial boost



sarah.grochowski@bpdigital.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

2021 B.C. BudgetAddictions treatmentmental health

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Memorials have been set up to honour those who died during the Second World War. (Pixabay.com)
COLUMN: It’s time to stop making comparisons to Hitler

The deadliest, most destructive war in human history should not become a metaphor

Oliver’s Fairview Bridge needs work to remove the lead-based paint, but it may cost the town more than they’re currently willing to pay. (Google Maps)
Oliver bridge work may not happen until 2022

Bids for the project came in over what the town had budgeted

A medical worker prepares vials of the COVID-19 vaccines, Chinese Sinopharm, left, Sputnik V, center, and Pfizer at a vaccine centre, in the Usce shopping mall in Belgrade, Serbia, Thursday, May 6, 2021. Serbian authorities are looking for incentives for people to boost vaccination that has slowed down in recent weeks amid widespread anti-vaccination and conspiracy theories in the Balkan nation. The government has also promised a payment of around 25 euros to everyone who gets vaccinated by the end of May. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)
38 new COVID-19 cases, more than 335k vaccines administered in Interior Health

Interior Health also to start targeted vaccinations in high transmission neighbourhoods

Upgrades will be completed on a portion of the Kettle Valley Railway trail north of Penticton. (Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen photo)
Contract awarded for improvements to trail near Penticton

Portion of Kettle Valley Railway trail will receive upgrades

FILE PHOTO
Second doses of COVID-19 vaccine will be available, as AstraZeneca supply runs low: Interior Health

Province expecting large volumes of Pfizer BioNTech as age-based cohort immunization program ramps up

(The Canadian Press)
Trudeau won’t say whether Canada supports patent waiver for COVID-19 vaccines

‘Canada is at the table to help find a solution’

Gord Judson steers his log truck down a forest service road, using two-way radio and call signals to mark his position for oncoming traffic. (B.C. Forest Safety Council)
Planning some B.C. wilderness fishing? Don’t catch a log truck

Remote recreation areas bracing for heavy pandemic pressure

Former University of British Columbia student Stephanie Hale, 22. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff Bassett
Human Rights Tribunal to hear complaint against UBC Okanagan for ‘mishandling’ sexual assault report

Stephanie Hale did not return to campus after the student she alleges attacked her was cleared of wrongdoing

Jennifer Coffman, owner of Truffle Pigs in Field, B.C., poses beside her business sign on Thursday, May 6, 2021, in this handout photo. Her restaurant and lodge have been hit hard by a closure of a section of the Trans-Canada Highway and by the British Columbia government discouraging Alberta residents from visiting during the pandemic. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Jennifer Coffman, *MANDATORY CREDIT*
‘Why we survive’: B.C. boundary towns struggle without Albertans during pandemic

Jennifer Coffman’s restaurant is located in the tiny community of Field, which relies on tourism

A sign indicating face coverings are required by the establishment is pictured on the front door of a business in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, April 9, 2021. COVID-19 cases have been on a steady increase in the province of British Columbia over the past week. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
A sign indicating face coverings are required by the establishment is pictured on the front door of a business in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, April 9, 2021. COVID-19 cases have been on a steady increase in the province of British Columbia over the past week. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. to start releasing neighbourhood-specific COVID numbers after data leak

Documents obtained by the Vancouver Sun show cases broken down by neighbourhoods

Kelowna seen from the top of Knox Mountain. (Phil McLachlan/Black Press Media file)
Accessibility concerns raised as Kelowna ponders banning vehicles from Knox Mountain

Knox Mountain Drive, which leads to two lookouts, has been closed since the COVID-19 pandemic began

(Pixabay photo)
Cow-based wildfire mitigation pilot contended by Southeast Kelowna group

‘Targeted grazing’ program would see 50 cows deployed to 60-hectare parcel above Field Road

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix update B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature, April 29, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 case count creeps up, seven more deaths

445 people in hospital, 157 in intensive care

Cops for Kids riders will be spinning 30 feet in the air on scissor lifts at SaveOn Foods locations in Kelowna, Lake Country and West Kelowna Saturday, May 8, 2021. (File photo)
Cops reach new heights for Okanagan kids

Nor-Val Rentals is doing the heavy lifting Saturday in Kelowna, West Kelowna and Lake Country

Most Read