By: Kamloops This Week

British Columbia will receive $10 million from the federal government to help deal with the opioid crisis in the province.

The money is in addition to $65 million federal Health Minister Jane Philpott announced that will be put toward the crisis nationally.

Her provincial counterpart in B.C. praised the funding decision.

“We appreciate the efforts by our federal counterparts on this file – including expediting Bill C-37, regulating precursors to fentanyl, improving border controls and negotiating an agreement with China to stem the flow of illegal fentanyl into Canada. The new federal funding for a national strategy shows they continue to take this issue seriously,” said Terry Lake.

“We have been fighting hard in B.C. to save lives from the opioid epidemic sweeping our province, and the new federal funding announced today will provide much-needed help on this front.”

The money will be used for several purposes including expanded rapid access to opioid substitution treatment, more supervised-consumption sites, expanding access to naloxone — a drug that can temporarily reverse an opioid overdose — and to provide more support for the front-line workers confronted on a daily basis by what the province has deemed a medical emergency.

Since their creation last December, 20 overdose-prevention sites, including two in Kamloops, have had more than 8,000 visits and reversed 150 overdoses.

As of Feb. 20, 15 dog teams in the province have been trained to identify fentanyl. It is expected all RCMP narcotics dog teams in Canada will receive the training by mid-July.

In 2016, there were 922 illicit drug overdose deaths across B.C., up from 513 in 2015 and 366 in 2014.

The BC Coroners Service has yet to release a new report on the proportion of deaths in which fentanyl was detected. That data for 2016 is not yet available, but is expected to be sometime in March.

More than half of all illicit drug deaths in 2016 involved persons between the ages of 30 and 49. Four out of five who died were male.

Last month, B.C. saw a decrease in illicit drug overdose deaths. There were 116 in January compared to 142 in December of 2016. However, that 116 is still the third highest monthly total in the last year. There were 86 overdose deaths recorded by the BC Coroners Service in January of 2016 across the province.

In 2016, police confirmed four drug overdose deaths in Merritt all of which were suspected to involve fentanyl.

—with files from the Merritt Herald