Province to fund drug-checking technology developed at VIU

Sheila Malcolmson, minister of mental health and addictions, speaks during a press conference on July 15, announcing B.C. will phase in a new policy to expand access to prescribed safer supply. || B.C. government photo
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The B.C. government will provide $305,000 in funding to HarmCheck, a drug-checking technology developed at Vancouver Island University (VIU).

The technology allows rapid, sensitive testing as a harm-reduction measure to help reduce illicit drug poisonings. HarmCheck provides results in one to two minutes and detects and quantifies substances present in a sample, such as fentanyl, carfentanil, benzodiazepines and etizolam. Only a tiny sample is needed to deliver highly sensitive and accurate results. Almost 2,000 samples have been tested for people in Victoria, according to a media release from the province.

“This technology has the potential to save lives and help address one of the most critical and devastating challenges we face – the opioid epidemic,” said Deborah Saucier, president and vice-chancellor, VIU. “This funding provides the opportunity to further this research and contribute to the health and safety of Island residents while doing so.”

Funding will support setup costs, site upgrades and research staff, according to the province. The operation is a collaboration between VIU and the Victoria-based Vancouver Island Drug Checking Project, which provides free and confidential drug-checking services. The project also connects people with health services and improves data on the poisoned drug supply.

“HarmCheck is cutting-edge technology developed right here in Nanaimo that has the power to reduce poisoned drug overdoses and save lives,” said Sheila Malcolmson, minister of mental health and addictions. “This technology allows for rapid and cost-effective drug-checking services that provide life-saving information. I am grateful to the team at VIU and proud to support a homegrown solution that adds another tool in our response to the drug poisoning crisis. The project announced today has the potential to be replicated in communities across the province.”

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