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Highlights from auditor reports on B.C. overdose prevention, safer-supply programs

VICTORIA — British Columbia’s auditor general has released a report on two key government programs aimed at curbing the death toll from the toxic-drug crisis. The first audit examined the implementation of overdose prevention and supervised consumption services, while the second looked at how the initial phase of the prescribed safer-supply program was set up and monitored. 

Both reports provided recommendations to B.C.’s health and addictions ministries, who lead the province’s response to the toxic-drug emergency. Here are some highlights.

Chapter 1: An audit of implementation of overdose prevention and supervised consumption sites

This report found the ministry: 

— monitored performance of sites

— publicly reported on implementation of services

— adjusted funding when necessary

Deficiencies:

— operational guidance lacked minimum service standards and did not reflect consultations with health authorities, Indigenous people or those with lived experience

— barriers to provincewide implementation were not addressed

— deficiencies in target setting and evaluation

Recommendations:

1. The ministries work with health authorities, service providers, people with lived experience and Indigenous Peoples to develop appropriate minimum-level standards for sites and update guidance to ensure it meets their needs.

2. The ministries work proactively with health authorities to develop achievable targets within time frames to help ensure effective provincewide implementation of sites.

3. The ministries work with health authorities, Indigenous Peoples and those with lived experience to initiate a new, systematic evaluation of all sites in B.C.

4. The ministries work with health authorities to develop provincewide strategies to address barriers to new sites. 

5. The ministries continue to work with health authorities to develop community-level guidance that supports overdose prevention and supervised consumption-site implementation.

Ministry response:

— The report says the ministries have accepted all five of the recommendations for the overdose prevention and supervised consumption sites on service standards, target setting, evaluation and addressing barriers.

Chapter 2: An audit of the initial implementation of prescribed safer supply

This report found the ministry:

— developed a data-collection framework

— monitored and adjusted funding

— initiated an evaluation of prescribed safer supply 

Deficiencies:

— The ministries didn’t develop or implement strategies to address prominent barriers to implementation, such as rural access to the program, health-care providers’ hesitancy about prescribing the drugs and whether the drugs being offered were appropriate.

— The ministries didn’t effectively report publicly on the performance of prescribed safer supply. 

Recommendations: 

1. The ministries develop an action plan to address barriers to prescribed safer-supply implementation that includes working with health authorities to define responsibilities for implementation and oversight, consulting partners, including those with lived experiences, to ensure needs are being met, and targeted engagement with rural and remote communities to determine if implementation is feasible.

2. The ministries report regularly to the public and health sector partners on whether the prescribed safer-supply program is effectively meeting objectives.

Ministry response:

— The report says the ministries accepted both recommendations on addressing barriers and public reporting.

Mental Health and Addictions Minister Jennifer Whiteside:

“We will continue to take action to expand mental health and addictions services in communities across B.C., including treatment and recovery, early intervention, and services that keep people alive and connect them to care, so we can turn the tide on this public health crisis.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 19, 2024.

The Canadian Press


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