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BCCDC drug overdose meeting: Turning ideas into action to help save lives

With a supply of street drugs so toxic more than four people die from overdoses each day in BC, what more can policy makers, public health officials and other partners do to make the response more effective?
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That is the key question being asked of the 120 participants of the 2017 BC Overdose Action Exchange taking place in Vancouver on June 16. 

The meeting aims to develop a new set of innovative strategies to help combat the drug overdose emergency in BC. The crisis has taken the lives of at least 488 people in the first four months of 2017 alone.

While the meeting is not open to news media, organizers will be available for a Q&A with reporters during the lunch break. Provincial Health Officer Dr. Perry Kendall will also be available to speak about a new letter regarding drug overdoses that his office is sending to school districts, parents and guardians around the province. 

Media availability: Friday, June 16, 2017
Time: Media availability will begin at 12:30pm
Location: Morris J. Wosk Centre for Dialogue, 580 W. Hastings St., Vancouver BC, Room 420

Specific areas to be addressed at the meeting:

  • Providing safer alternatives to the current supply of street drugs
  • Examining existing drug policy
  • Fighting stigma
  • Addressing structural barriers that contribute to addiction including poverty and housing
  • Reviewing opioid prescribing guidelines for physicians
  • Scaling up supervised consumption and drug overdose prevention sites
  • Strengthening the addictions treatment system
  • Engaging with public safety stakeholders
People who use drugs are an important part of the provincial response to the overdose emergency. Meeting organizers set a target of at least 10 per cent of participants to be people with lived experience. Other participants are leaders from a variety of sectors across the province and country, including public health, public safety, government, and community organizations.

This is the second Overdose Action Exchange hosted by the BCCDC. The report from the 2016 meeting is available online, along with supplementary meeting materials. Following this year’s meeting, the BCCDC will publish a meeting report on its website summarizing the ideas, actions and next steps. 

For drug overdose information, data and reports from the BCCDC, the Ministry of Health and the BC Coroners Service, see the BCCDC website. To learn about harm reduction in BC, see Toward The Heart.


Dr. Perry Kendall, Provincial Health Officer – 
“Despite tremendous efforts from the Ministry of Health and partners across BC to save lives, we continue to see the number of fatal overdoses climb. I look forward to engaging with a broad cross section of individuals who in a variety of ways are working to turn this crisis around. We do need to do better.”

Dr. Mark Tyndall, Executive Director, BCCDC –
“The overdose crisis has laid bare the vulnerabilities of people who rely on the unregulated drug market to deal with addiction, physical pain, trauma, mental illness and social isolation. The goal of the meeting is to come up with new ideas that challenge the status quo and slow the tragic loss of life from overdose in BC.”

Lisa Lapointe, Chief Coroner, BC Coroners Service –
“The risks associated with all illicit drugs in the province are extreme. That is why we are working collaboratively with partners across the province to help address this public health crisis. There are now a number of harm-reduction measures in place and, together, we continue to issue public-safety messages frequently to help educate those using illicit drugs in British Columbia. I am optimistic that by working together, we can find solutions to fight this health emergency.”

The BC Centre for Disease Control, an agency of the Provincial Health Services Authority, provides public health leadership through surveillance, detection, treatment, prevention and consultation services. The Centre provides diagnostic and treatment services for people with diseases of public health importance, and analytical and policy support to all levels of government and health authorities. The BCCDC also provides health promotion and prevention services to reduce the burden of chronic disease and preventable injury. For more, visit  or follow us on Twitter @CDCofBC.

The Provincial Health Services Authority (PHSA) plans, manages and evaluates selected specialty and province-wide health care services across BC, working with the five geographic health authorities to deliver province-wide solutions that improve the health of British Columbians. For more information, visit or follow us on Twitter @PHSAofBC.


Media Contact:
Ben Hadaway
BCCDC Communications 
604.816.2143 or PHSA media line:

BC Centre for Disease Control; BC Overdose Action Exchange; harm reduction; drug; overdose



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