B.C.’s harm reduction programs ‘not effectively implemented’: audit

A new report by B.C.’s Auditor General has found two provincial harm reduction programs that seek to reduce toxic-drug-related deaths have “not been effectively implemented.”

In a release Tuesday morning, the Officer of the Auditor General says the Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions and the Ministry of Health did not implement effectively its overdose prevention and consumption services or how the initial phase of prescribed safer supply was set up and monitored.

“Many thousands of people in B.C. are grieving the losses of family and friends from the toxic drug supply,” Auditor General Michael Pickup said. “The crisis is also an immense challenge for those working to provide care and support for people who use substances. My team and I have a deep sense of empathy for everyone who has been touched by this continuing tragedy.”

The Auditor General’s office notes the reports also looked into whether the ministries included the perspectives of health authorities, Indigenous Peoples, and people with lived or living experience with substance use.

When auditing the provincial overdose prevention and consumption services, the report found that the ministries did not adequately respond to implementation barriers, such as municipal resistance; no minimal service standards were outlined; provincial guidance did not always reflect consultations with Indigenous People and those with lived experience; and determined a new program evaluation was needed “given the evolving nature of the health emergency.”

“The audit found ministries developed a data collection framework, monitored and adjusted funding, and initiated an evaluation of the program. However, they didn’t effectively monitor the initial provincewide implementation of prescribed safer supply,” the Auditor General Office said.

The audit noted that the ministries did not address implementation barriers, public reporting was lacking, and better collaboration with health authorities, health sector partners, Indigenous Peoples, and people with lived and living experience was needed.

“This is a novel program that required transparency with key partners to build trust,” Pickup said. “We found that the ministries’ approach to collaboration with health-sector partners and public reporting was insufficient.”

The Auditor General’s Office explained that all seven recommendations have been accepted by the ministries.

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