As B.C. saw its most deadly month in the ongoing opioid crisis in May, the province has launched a new 24/7 helpline for physicians and nurses when treating patients struggling with substance use.
The 24/7 Addiction Medicine Clinician Support Line, launched Tuesday (June 16), will be staffed with addiction medicine experts to provide over-the-phone consultations with doctors, nurses and pharmacists with any time-sensitive clinical substance-use inquiries.
This includes questions around screening, assessment, treatment and management of substance use disorders.
“Earlier this spring, we worked quickly to launch Canada’s first guidance for prescribing safe prescription alternatives to the poisoned and increasingly toxic drug supply in B.C.,” said Addictions Minister Judy Darcy in a news statement.
“This helpline is another key step in supporting health-care professionals to meet the immediate needs of their patients and to keep them separated from dangerous, unpredictable street drugs.”
In May, B.C. recorded its deadliest month ever for illicit drug deaths, with 170 people losing their lives due to an unpredictable and highly toxic drug supply which has been exacerbated by COVID-19 and border closures.
The helpline will allow clinicians unfamiliar with prescribing safe alternatives to discuss the options with a fellow medical expert – a focus of medicine which remains a huge gap in the healthcare system, according to Dr. Christy Sutherland with the BC Centre for Substance Use.
“This new support line will be a great asset to clinicians in many settings – from an ER doctor working overnight to a nurse in a remote community – and help improve the delivery of life-saving, evidence-based addiction care across the province,” Sutherland said.
The helpline is expected to be particularly helpful for healthcare providers in rural parts of the province which see high rates of fatal overdoses.
“Providing addiction care in rural B.C. can be very isolating and management of complex patients with addictions can be especially challenging,” said Zak Matieschyn, a nurse practitioner with Interior Health. “Access to a 24/7 support line to addiction specialists will be a huge benefit to rural clinicians, and will help provide patients with the best possible care.”
The support line can be reached by dialing 778-945-7619.
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