British Columbia is phasing in a new policy to expand access to prescribed safer supply. The province is directing funding up to $22.6 million to the health authorities over the next 3 years to lay the foundation for this new approach. The funding will support the planning, phased implementation, monitoring, and evaluation of prescribed safer supply services.
At the start of the pandemic, BC provided access to some prescribed safer supply medications. Building on what was learned, BC is expanding access to prescribed safer supply to reach more people. Once fully implemented, people who use drugs and who are at high risk of dying from the toxic illicit drug supply will be able to access alternatives covered by PharmaCare, including a range of opioids and stimulants as determined by programs and prescribers.
The Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions introduces this policy following work with partners and stakeholders, including medical doctors, nurses, pharmacists, people with lived and living experience, the First Nations Health Authority, all regional health authorities, and Indigenous-led organizations. The policy was developed within the limits of the federal Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, which requires controlled substances be provided by prescription.
The new policy will roll out through a phased approach, beginning with implementing the policy in existing health authority–funded programs that currently prescribe alternatives to illicit drugs (e.g., opioid agonist treatment, oral and injectable tablet programs) and through newly created programs such as service hubs and outreach teams, supported by Budget 2021. Prescribed safer supply services will also be delivered through the federally funded Safer programs.
The first phase of this new policy is expected to be in place for 18 to 24 months as data are collected to assess this approach. Phased implementation ensures patient and prescriber safety, as well as providing opportunity for rigorous monitoring and evaluation as BC builds a body of evidence that will lead to clinical guidance for this policy.
Further phases will expand broader access once the clinical guidance is developed based on findings from the monitoring and evaluation process.
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