The British Columbia government says it is accelerating its response to the overdose crisis by expanding lifesaving overdose prevention, treatment and support services.
In a statement on Tuesday, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions Judy Darcy says the illicit drug supply is more toxic than ever before due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
She says funds for the accelerated response are part of the $10.5-million set aside to address the crisis province-wide.
A total of 29 new supervised consumption or inhalation services will be opened, while 42 nurses, social workers and peer support workers will join 14 new or existing outreach teams.
A statement from the Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions says the teams will connect people with substance-use challenges, including those who use drugs alone, to services they need.
The BC Coroners Service said last month that a record 175 people died in June of illicit-drug overdoses, surpassing the previous record of 171 deaths just one month before.
Overdoses have killed about 5,000 people in B.C. since a public health emergency was declared in 2016 as the illicit drug supply was tainted by substances including the powerful opioid fentanyl.
Katrina Jensen, executive director of the Victoria-based AVI Health and Community Services, says the measures are a "huge step in the right direction" toward supporting drug users.
"This will make a significant difference in enhancing overdose prevention services and increasing access to safe supply, which in turn will help support more people during this challenging time," Jensen says in the statement.