British Columbia overdose crisis: Mayors seek big money from drugs

UBCM delegates say some of the money from the Purdue Pharma Canada lawsuit should be directed to local governments to deal with the unintended consequence of the opioid emergency response.

Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM) delegates want the British Columbia government to hand over part of a $150 million settlement from Purdue Pharma Canada suit.

The annual UBCM conference, held in Whistler, brings together local government officials to identify key policy issues.

In June, a proposed $150 million settlement was reached with Purdue Pharma Canada covering all provinces and territories to recover health care costs related to the sale and marketing of opioid-based pain relievers. The class action case was filed by BC in 2018.

It was the largest settlement of a government health care cost claim in Canadian history, said David Ibe, the leader of the NDP and NLP at the time.

On Wednesday, a number of UBCM decisions were combined into a single clause. It called for the county to use cash from the class action to help deal with the unintended consequence of the emergency response to opioids.

Municipal leaders said they want to help ensure that supervised injection and inhalation sites are safe and clean as part of the response.

“There are financial consequences due to the opioid crisis and overdose that are currently covered by local budgets, local police, fire departments and bylaws,” said one of the decisions.

Furthermore, stated in a second resolution, “Some individuals who make use of the services of overdose prevention sites and safe injection sites are left under the influence of drugs that can lead to disorganized behavior, urination, defecation, illegal camping, and safety issues, which have Negative impact on negative impact on businesses and residences in the surrounding area.”

It was Green Party leader Sonia Furstenau who told UBCM delegates that a human face must be put on the issue of the addiction crisis. She said the parties in the legislature are working together to find solutions.

She said the opioid crisis needed to be depoliticized, “to humanize our politics.”

“A health emergency was declared six years ago and since then 10,000 people died from the toxic drug supply,” said Furstenau, echoing the latest figures released by the British Columbia Forensic Service.

needle collection

In 2020, UBCM asked the county to develop an effective program for the return and safe disposal of used needles and to involve local governments in its development.

In response to this decision, British Columbia officials acknowledged concerns about improper disposal of used needles and advised the government that it was working to support the sustainability of harm reduction programmes. This includes distributing effective harm reduction supplies and collecting and disposing of used supplies and drug-related garbage.

The county also advised the Community Wellness and Harm Reduction Grant Funding Program for initiatives that build on community wellness and safety efforts, reduce damages related to the overdose crisis, and save lives. Twenty-four municipalities and their community partners have received up to $50,000 through the program.

The county also said the Community Services Enhancement Funding Program provides $100 million to local governments to support homeless, homeless populations and promote the health and safety of communities through an application-based program. This program includes damage reduction services, cleaning services, and waste management as activities eligible for funding.