Province launches 24/7 helpline to assist clinicians helping those with addictions

The provincial government has launched a round-the-clock helpline for clinicians in need of addiction medicine support, while they treat patients.

The 24/7 Addiction Medicine Clinician Support Line was launched Tuesday (June 16) by the BC Centre on Substance Use (BCCSU). The support line is staffed by addiction medicine experts, who will provide phone consultations to physicians, nurse practitioners, nurses and pharmacists with any time-sensitive clinical substance-use inquiries.

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Consultation can include support in screening, assessment, treatment and management of substance use and substance-use disorders, including opioids, alcohol, stimulants and benzodiazepines.

“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 Judy Darcy, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, in a 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. saw its deadliest month in the ongoing opioid crisis, with 170 people dying of an illicit drug overdose. 

That’s more people than have died from COVID-19 in B.C. throughout its epidemic. According to health officials, 168 people have died from the virus since B.C.’s first case was recorded in late January.  As of May 31, there have been 554 illicit drug deaths this year in B.C.

In March, the provincial government issued guidelines for a safe supply of drugs for users, in an effort to prevent more overdose deaths. 

Training in addiction medicine remains a “huge gap” in the health-care system, leaving people unable to access the treatment and care they need, according to Dr. Christy Sutherland with the BCCSU, in a statement.

“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.”

The helpline will also be a valuable resource in rural settings, according to Zak Matieschyn, a nurse practitioner with Interior Health.

“Providing addiction care in rural B.C. can be very isolating and management of complex patients with addictions can be especially challenging,” he said in statement.

“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 helpline can be reached by calling 778-945-7619.

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