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UPDATE: Long-term funding missing for police naloxone kits amid B.C. opioid pandemic

Province commits to eliminate funding gaps; Greater Victoria departments worry for current situation
Police departments no longer receive funding for life-saving naloxone kits. (Courtesy Oak Bay Police Department)

Three Greater Victoria municipal police forces say the province has stopped funding their naloxone supplies in the middle the opioid crisis.

According to the Oak Bay Police the province informed them in April of 2020 that it would no longer pay for the life-saving kits, after providing the department with the resource for several years.

“The provincial government has acknowledged how effective this has been as police have administered naloxone hundreds of times and saved countless lives. Thousands of officers were trained and that, too, was funded by the provincial government,” said Oak Bay Chief Ray Bernoties.

“OBPD views this as a serious issue, as our members do encounter overdoses.”

The neighbouring Saanich and Victoria police forces have confirmed their departments are in a similar situation.

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The Victoria Police Department reports it has depleted its funded resource of naloxone and has already allocated $15,000 in its budget to cover the cost of purchasing more.

“Training and equipping VicPD officers to administer naloxone has saved over 100 lives in Victoria and Esquimalt. That’s why, despite our resource challenges, we continue to use our budget to supply naloxone and training to our officers on how to safely administer it,” said Bowen Osoko, VicPD spokesperson.

It is not clear at this point how much funding has been stripped, how many departments across the province have been affected, or whether this situation also affects the RCMP. No department contacted by Black Press Media said it had considered not providing the resource and related training for officers.

The Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General provided a written statement to a series of questions posed by Black Press.

“When the decision was made in April 2020, police forces across the province had an excess supply of Naloxone kits available to them. As these current supplies have been decreasing or expiring, we are committed to ensuring there are no gaps and to identifying long term funding so that police agencies are able to continue to have their officers carry these life-saving kits.”

At least 1,011 lives were lost to suspected illicit drug toxicity in B.C. between January and June, according to data released by the BC Coroners Service. In June, 159 people in B.C. died, the ninth consecutive month in which at least 150 British Columbians died as a result of the toxic drug supply.

The opioid crisis was declared a public health emergency in April 2016.

Editors note: This story was updated Sept. 23 to include a provincial response.

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Christine van Reeuwyk

About the Author: Christine van Reeuwyk

I'm dedicated to serving the community of Oak Bay as a senior journalist with the Greater Victoria news team.
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