In response to a recent report, the BC Health Authority and First Nations leaders are partnering to address the overdose public health emergency with Indigenous people in British Columbia.
Experts say that ongoing and historic colonization, along with trauma and dispossession of lands and resources are contributing factors that impact the high number of First Nations people overdosing on illegal or prescription drugs.
To address this state of emergency, they are introducing four broad action areas to guide a system-wide provincial response to the crisis.
Experts are urging that all actions must include culturally safe and trauma informed responses.
Their goals are to:
– Prevent people who overdose from dying
– Keep people safe when using
– Create an accessible range of treatment options and
– Support the healing journey.
The report Overdose Data and First Nations in BC Preliminary Findings described how racism and intergenerational trauma increase the risk of substance use and also is a barrier when accessing health care services.
Grand Chief Doug Kelly, First Nations Health Council Chair, says that the data regarding opioid deaths and critical events is not a surprise to First Nations leaders, Health Directors and Caregivers.
First Nations people, who make up 3.4 per cent of B.C.’s population, account for 14 per cent of all overdoses and 10 per cent of overdose deaths, the report found.
Since the start of 2016 there have been over 1700 overdoses in BC alone. The coroner’s office has committed to providing information to communities and partners in a more timely manner.
It has been a year since the declaration of emergency has been declared and more deaths are predicted for this year. Indigenous people have five time the risk of an overdose and three the risk for fatalities.
In light of this information, BC Health Authority and the First Nations Health Authority are moving to address the historical wrongs and systemic racism, and ensuring that the services in the province do not discriminate against First Nations as well as offering culturally appropriate options for healing.