Victoria: British Columbia said it is providing universal coverage for opioid agonist treatments that help people with substance use disorders, making it the first province in Canada to do so.

In a news release, Health Minister Adrian Dix said full coverage of the medications will be available to all B.C. residents with an active medical services plan.

The Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions said the policy became effective June 6, and expands full coverage to approximately 1,638 people who had been paying out of pocket, out of a total of 34,520 who had been receiving the treatments in B.C. last year.

Opioid agonist treatment involves the use of medications such as methadone, and the ministry says it is distinct from safer supply, in which “pharmaceutical alternatives to illicit drugs” are prescribed. 

Jennifer Whiteside, minister of mental health and addictions, said removing cost barriers to opioid treatments will help people “stabilize their lives, prevent deaths and stay on their journey to wellness.”

The move comes amid pushback from B.C. health officials against criticism of the province’s safe supply program and drug policies by federal Opposition Leader Pierre Poilievre and others. — Canadian Press

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