Opioid Crisis Still Rampant in BC

Opioid Crisis Still Rampant in BC

July 10, 2020

By Jordan Cryderman


Amidst the COVID-19 Pandemic, another problem has continued to plague the province of British Columbia – the opioid crisis. In 2020, overdose rates have grown significantly amongst Indigenous peoples. However, Carrier Sekani Family Services (CSFS) has been working on an opioid strategy since 2018 to help combat this crisis, and continues to adapt its programs to serve its clients during the pandemic.


According to the First Nations Health Authority (FNHA), from January to May 2020, overdose rates amongst Indigenous peoples in BC increased by 93 percent, compared to the same time period in 2019. Although Indigenous people make up only 3.4 percent of BC’s population, they accounted for 16 percent of overdose deaths in 2020 from January to May. 


Some suggest the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic may be a contributing cause for this increase. Not only has the pandemic disrupted the drug supply, making the current supply more toxic, but programs such as mental health and substance abuse supports have also seen a disruption in service. 


Dr. Christina Dobson, Senior Advisor of the Health and Wellness Program, says that although CSFS has been working on a strategy to address the opioid crisis since 2018, “the current pandemic has introduced a greater challenge to support people in need.”


CSFS’ opioid strategy includes a number of initiatives that continue to support the nations we serve. They include specific opioid related training across the organization and mandatory treatment for those in need.


Each medical staff member, including CSFS physicians, nurses, mental health clinician staff, and addictions staff, require training in opioid substance use disorder and treatment. We also encourage CSFS physicians to become familiar with Suboxone and Methadone treatments, from induction to monitoring.


Mandatory treatment ensures patients get extra support to ensure their safety. At CSFS, all opioid substance abuse disorder treatment patients are referred to mental health services for further support.


Dr. Dobson says that CSFS has had to adapt their strategy to supporting clients through online platforms as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.


“Our mental health clinicians continue to provide counselling support to all member communities and those Indigenous peoples living off reserve through video and phone options. Our Addiction Recovery Program normally provides residential treatment starting in May at Ormond Lake on Nadleh Whut’en Territory. Due to the pandemic however, for the past two months, we have provided our treatment program virtually with one-month long sessions.” 


However, as BC has entered Phase Three of reopening the province, CSFS is happy to announce that the treatment program at Ormond Lake is once again welcoming clients for in-person services with pandemic safety protocols in place. 


Although the COVID-19 pandemic continues to be the large focal point for health services in BC, the opioid crisis continues to devastate the province. The concerning growth of overdose rates amongst Indigenous peoples may be a byproduct from the effects of the pandemic, but CSFS will continue to adapt its services in order to support those in need with a multitude of programs. 


For more information on the Addictions Recovery Program, including referral forms, please visit, or email 


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Last modified: Wednesday 03-Apr-24 12:36:29 PDT