Nurse practitioners in B.C. can now prescribe opioid substitutes

Minister of Mental Health and Addictions announced changes at UVic’s School of Nursing

Nurse practitioners in B.C. will now be able to prescribe opioid substitute medications to those experiencing addiction, the province announced Wednesday.

Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, Judy Darcy, said the expansion is about providing more tools for those on the front lines of the escalating crisis, when addressing health professionals and nursing students at the University of Victoria.

“This change is critically important and the reason is pretty basic. You need to be alive in order to have a pathway to recovery,” Darcy said.

On Feb. 14, the College of Registered Nurses of British Columbia expanded prescribing standards to allow nurse practitioners to prescribe medications like injectable hydromorphone, buprenorphine-naloxone and methadone.

“Let’s call it what it is– safe alternatives to the poisonous street drugs that are taking so many lives,” Darcy said, adding the crisis is now claiming an average of four lives a day in the province.

In the seven months preceding that change, the number of physicians providing opioid substitution therapy increased 60 per cent and the number of new patients receiving such care increased 126 per cent.

Nurse practitioners will undergo training from the B.C. Centre on Substance Abuse in order to ensure compassionate, holistic care is provided, Darcy said, and the ministry – created in 2017 – will continue to consult nurses as it develops its strategy for mental health and addictions.

This includes consideration of other social factors impacting addiction such as housing, poverty, and challenges facing youth aging out of care. The province is also partnering with the First Nations Health Authority; Indigenous people face rates of addiction that are three times higher than the non-Indigenous population.

“If we’re going to build a better system, we really need all hands on deck,” the minister said.

In a round table setting, nurse practitioners joined students from UVic’s nursing program, as well as staff from Insite in Vancouver to pose questions directly to the minister.

Sarah Jesshope, a second year student nurse practitioner asked how the changes will align with the ministry’s new mandate to increase access to primary care, a significant struggle for those with mental illness and addiction.

“They’re integrally linked,” Darcy said. “Nurse practitioners are absolutely vital in primary care. Among other reasons, being able to take the time and really deal with all aspects of a person’s health.”

Hundreds of thousands of British Columbians don’t have access to a family doctor, and don’t necessarily know that what they really need is a nurse practitioner, she added.

Nurse practitioners are working on the front lines, Jesshope said, adding these changes will increase access to care across the board.

“As a student we work in many different areas of health care, that can include acute care, emergency. We work with all age groups, but yes the opioid crisis is affecting every platform, every family,” she said.

The federal government has also taken a nod from B.C.’s guidelines and effective May 19, 2018, prescribers will no longer require an exemption to prescribe substitute medications beyond a hospital setting.

“Our goal as a ministry is to get to a place where people living with mental illness and addiction are treated with the same dignity and the same respect and have access to the same quality of care as people living with any other ailment,” Darcy said.

kristyn.anthony@vicnews.com

Just Posted

BC Wildfire holding steady on Okanagan Complex

Evening update on Okanagan fire situation

Special board gets those with mobility challenges out on the water at Canoe Beach

A special beach chair was used to cross the uneven ground down to the water’s edge.

Okanagan Wildfires: An afternoon update on wildfires and evacuations

A Sunday afternoon look at the major wildfires impacting the Okanagan and Similkameen.

BC Wildfire merges Mt. Eneas and Munro Lake fires

Large plume of smoke seen over the fire was a controlled event

Salmon Arm emergency crews respond to single vehicle accident on 50 Street SW

An ambulance was seen leaving the scene of the accident

BC Games: Day 3 wrap and closing ceremonies

The torch in the Cowichan Valley has been extinguished as Fort St. John gets ready to host the 2020 BC Winter Games

Police confirm girl, 8 others injured in Toronto shooting; shooter dead

Paramedics said many of the victims in Danforth, including a child, were rushed to trauma centres

Why do they do it? Coaches guide kids to wins, personal bests at the BC Games

Behind the 2,300 B.C. athletes are the 450 coaches who dedicate time to help train, compete

Reel Reviews: Floundering inferno

We quote Charlie Brown: “Good grief!”

UPDATE: Five taken to hospital following one of two Coquihalla accidents

One airlifted in critical condition, four taken via ambulance in stable condition

Ottawa fails to find alternative buyer for Trans Mountain pipeline by deadline

The feds had announced it was purchasing the $4.5 billion pipeline earlier this spring

Government sets full-time salary range for Justin Trudeau’s nanny

At its top range, the order works out to a rate of $21.79 per hour, assuming a 40-hour work week

Lower Mainland teams battle for baseball gold at BC Games

Vancouver Coastal squeaked out a 3-2 win against Fraser Valley

The Northern Secwepemc te Qelmucw people signed an agreement-in-principle with the B.C. government

The signing ceremony, at the Eliza Archie Memorial School, was 25 years in the making

Most Read