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On April 14, 2016, B.C.'s provincial health officer declared a public health emergency under the Public Health Act due to the significant rise in overdose deaths reported in B.C.


This crisis has been further complicated by a second public health emergency ​eclared March 17, 2020, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

During these dual public health crises, nurses are working in new ways with other health care providers, first responders, service groups, non-profit organizations, volunteers and others to provide care.

Agencies and resources

The provincial response to the overdose crisis is being led by a number of agencies, including the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions, the BC Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) and the​ BC Centre on Substance Use (BCCSU). BCCSU is a provincially networked organization with a mandate to develop, help implement, and evaluate evidence-based approaches to substance use and addiction.

BCCSU resources

New support line

The pervasive nature of this overdose emergency means nurses working across the health care system may be encountering clients in at risk of overdose. As part of efforts to support clinicians, BCCSU in June 2020 launched the 24/7 Addiction Medicine Clinician Support Line. This new phone line is staffed with addiction medicine experts from across the province who can provide telephone consultation to physicians, nurse practitioners, nurses, and pharmacists to help improve the delivery of life-saving, evidence-based addiction care. It will help support implementation of clinical guidance and regulatory amendments that are being rapidly developed and deployed in response to these dual public health emergencies, including considerations for prescribing safer prescription alternatives to the toxic drug supply.

Guidance documents

BCCSU provides additional guidance for prescribers (including NPs), and other nurses during the COVID-19 pandemic in Risk mitigation in the context of dual public health emergencies. Nurses can also refer to the centre's opioid use disorder resources.

BCCDC resources

Overdoses can occur anywhere, creating unique challenges for health care providers. In May 2020, BCCDC published a protocol related to episodic overdose prevention. This protocol can be implemented by employers in a variety of settings to help manage and prevent episodic overdoses. Nurses can also refer to the agency's harm reduction resources.

BC​CNM resources 

See Prescribing for opioid use disorder​ for a list of frequently asked questions and ​​additional resources, including a resource related to consulting with or referring to other health professionals when prescribing for opioid use disorder (OUD). 

Meeting standards

It's important to remember that even in situations where nurses cannot provide optimal client care due to circumstances beyond their control (such as working limited resources, in an unfamiliar area, or with an increased client load), they can still meet the Professional ​Standards. These situations are usually beyond a nurse's individual control and often require a systems approach for resolution.  

Nurses are responsible for providing the best nursing care possible under the circumstances, setting priorities, using their critical thinking and professional judgement, communicating with their employer, and participating in efforts to improv​e client care. The Duty to Provide Care practice standard provides more information and guidance. 


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  • Call 604.742.6200 x8803 (Metro Vancouver)
  • Toll-free 1.866.880.7101 x8803 (within Canada only)​