Nurse practitioners in B.C. can now prescribe opioid substitutes

Minister of Mental Health and Addictions announced changes at UVic’s School of Nursing

Nurse practitioners in B.C. will now be able to prescribe opioid substitute medications to those experiencing addiction, the province announced Wednesday.

Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, Judy Darcy, said the expansion is about providing more tools for those on the front lines of the escalating crisis, when addressing health professionals and nursing students at the University of Victoria.

“This change is critically important and the reason is pretty basic. You need to be alive in order to have a pathway to recovery,” Darcy said.

On Feb. 14, the College of Registered Nurses of British Columbia expanded prescribing standards to allow nurse practitioners to prescribe medications like injectable hydromorphone, buprenorphine-naloxone and methadone.

“Let’s call it what it is– safe alternatives to the poisonous street drugs that are taking so many lives,” Darcy said, adding the crisis is now claiming an average of four lives a day in the province.

In the seven months preceding that change, the number of physicians providing opioid substitution therapy increased 60 per cent and the number of new patients receiving such care increased 126 per cent.

Nurse practitioners will undergo training from the B.C. Centre on Substance Abuse in order to ensure compassionate, holistic care is provided, Darcy said, and the ministry – created in 2017 – will continue to consult nurses as it develops its strategy for mental health and addictions.

This includes consideration of other social factors impacting addiction such as housing, poverty, and challenges facing youth aging out of care. The province is also partnering with the First Nations Health Authority; Indigenous people face rates of addiction that are three times higher than the non-Indigenous population.

“If we’re going to build a better system, we really need all hands on deck,” the minister said.

In a round table setting, nurse practitioners joined students from UVic’s nursing program, as well as staff from Insite in Vancouver to pose questions directly to the minister.

Sarah Jesshope, a second year student nurse practitioner asked how the changes will align with the ministry’s new mandate to increase access to primary care, a significant struggle for those with mental illness and addiction.

“They’re integrally linked,” Darcy said. “Nurse practitioners are absolutely vital in primary care. Among other reasons, being able to take the time and really deal with all aspects of a person’s health.”

Hundreds of thousands of British Columbians don’t have access to a family doctor, and don’t necessarily know that what they really need is a nurse practitioner, she added.

Nurse practitioners are working on the front lines, Jesshope said, adding these changes will increase access to care across the board.

“As a student we work in many different areas of health care, that can include acute care, emergency. We work with all age groups, but yes the opioid crisis is affecting every platform, every family,” she said.

The federal government has also taken a nod from B.C.’s guidelines and effective May 19, 2018, prescribers will no longer require an exemption to prescribe substitute medications beyond a hospital setting.

“Our goal as a ministry is to get to a place where people living with mental illness and addiction are treated with the same dignity and the same respect and have access to the same quality of care as people living with any other ailment,” Darcy said.

kristyn.anthony@vicnews.com

Just Posted

Nature wise: scavengers in action in the Okanagan Valley

Bob Handfield is president of The South Okanagan Naturalists’ Club

Oliver to get new sheriff from graduating class

Oliver will be one of a number of B.C. communities to get a member of the recent graduating class

Male strippers appeal with comedy

Vancouver’s Comic Strippers to perform shows in Salmon Arm and Vernon

Out to pasture at the Freak’n Farmer

The annual “fun” event at Covert Farms put on by the Covert family and HooDoo Adventures

Couple of cruisers crammed in Penticton

Penticton RCMP officers and voluteers collected food and money for the Salvation Army Food Bank

Environment Canada confirms Ottawa area hit by two tornadoes Friday

At one point more than 200,000 hydro customers were blacked out

Who’s running in Penticton’s election?

Candidates for the Penticton municipal and school board election

Whitecaps see playoff dreams fade after 2-1 loss to FC Dallas

Goal in 87th minute seals Vancouver’s fate

B.C. students send books to displaced students of Hornby Island school fire

Maple Ridge elementary school teacher says students learned about acts of kindness

Trans Canada now open west of Chase, ‘heavy delays’

Few details available about crash that closed Trans Canada Highway west of Chase Sunday, Sept. 23

Trump drains oxygen from Trudeau foreign policy with PM, Freeland bound for UN

A lot has changed since the Liberals came to power in Canada in 2015

B.C. man fined $15,000, barred from trading securities for fraud

Larry Keith Davis used money from an investor to pay personal bills

Emergency crews investigate small sulphuric acid spill in Kootenays

IRM states a small volume of less than one cup and three dime-sized drips were leaked from carrier

Most Read