Ministry of Health announces $3 million to help health professionals treat addiction

For those British Columbians and their families who are struggling with addiction, more help is on the way with a $3-million investment to expand and support a provincial addiction medicine education and research training program for clinicians, making it the largest in North America.

Government is partnering with the education, care and research program of Dr. Evan Wood, University of British Columbia professor and co-director of the Urban Health Research Initiative at the BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS at St. Paul’s Hospital and medical director, Addictions Services, Vancouver Coastal Health and Providence Health Care, to harness new ways to treat substance dependence and related health concerns.

“There is an abundance of new knowledge available in the area of substance use disorder treatment. Today’s announcement will lead to translating that information into evidence-based and patient-centred care,” said Health Minister Terry Lake. “With the expertise and leadership of Dr. Wood and his colleagues in expanding the number of skilled addiction medicine providers and developing new ways of helping patients, I am confident that BC will remain a leader in addiction treatment education, research and clinical supports.”

Funding will help develop a new BC addiction medicine diploma program to improve clinical addiction care as well as the establishment of a rapid-access addiction medicine program. It also will support various addiction clinical trials, including a study recently funded by the US National Institute on Drug Abuse using a new medication called Vivitrol, a monthly intramuscular injection that blocks the effects of alcohol or heroin, and is already available in the US to treat opioid and alcohol dependence.

“Having seen first-hand the impact of addictions in our communities, I understand that it is important to reach out to those in need of care and provide even greater support,” said Suzanne Anton, Attorney General and Minister of Justice.

“I want to thank Health Minister Terry Lake and the provincial government for helping to promote optimal patient care in BC by supporting professional education in addiction medicine and creating opportunities for inter-disciplinary collaboration amongst doctors and other health professionals to best serve patients facing addictions,” said Dr. Wood. “Today’s announcement will enable BC to emerge as an international leader in addiction treatment and recovery.”

Additionally, funding sets the stage for the establishment of a Network for Excellence in Substance Dependence and Related Harms. This first-of-its-kind Canadian model will focus on integrating medical education, scientific research and clinical care to reduce the health and social harms of untreated addiction. The centre also will create an interdisciplinary platform to build capacity for addressing related health issues like mental illness and communicable diseases such as Hepatitis C and HIV.

Initiatives announced today also focus on strengthening the health-care system’s capacity for early identification and treatment as well as fostering a more co-ordinated and effective response toward health outcomes for those dealing with addictions. This reflects one of the ministry’s strategic directions which includes implementing a provincial system of primary and community care built around inter-professional teams to help strengthen treatment options for patients throughout the province.

Today’s announcement also supports ‘Healthy Minds, Healthy People: A Ten-Year Plan to Address Mental Health and Substance Use in British Columbia,’ which recognizes the need to enhance the health system response to substance use disorders, which can contribute to significant health-care and social costs. For the next phase of Healthy Minds, Healthy People implementation, a three-year work plan is in development which will including building health system capacity to respond effectively to the needs of British Columbians with mild-to-moderate
substance use disorders.

The Ministry of Health has made it a priority to build a comprehensive system of mental-health and substance use services throughout the province. About $1.3 billion was spent on mental-health and substance use in 2012-13.

In November 2013, the Ministry of Health created a mental-health action plan to reduce barriers and service gaps, and support evidence-based solutions for patients with severe substance use addictions and mental illness. To support this plan, $20 million was made available for regional health authorities to invest in more local programs and supports to improve care for this high-need population.