Over the past few years, the province of British Columbia has been grappling with an increasing opioid overdose crisis, with more than 2,500 toxic drug deaths in 2023 alone. As a result, there is a growing population facing a triple threat of mental illness, drug dependence and brain injuries.

Earlier this week, the BC government appointed Dr. Daniel Vigo as chief scientific advisor for psychiatry, toxic drugs and concurrent disorders. In his new position, Dr. Vigo will work closely with the provincial health officer, health authorities, Indigenous groups and people with lived experience to analyze existing mental health and addictions treatment services in BC.


“There’s an extremely high prevalence of brain injury in overdose survivors. In fact, at its most severe, half survivors die in the immediate future and another third in the near future,” he says. “For those who survive, the resulting clinical triad presents unique challenges in patient engagement and service provision, from prevention to tertiary care and secure community housing.”

Dr. Vigo, a psychiatrist and assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatry at UBC, will provide ongoing advice and recommendations on how to improve care for this new, growing group of patients who are living with a combination of mental health and addictions challenges and brain injuries. People with these complex conditions often face challenges that impact their ability to make rational decisions about self-care and accessing services.

His work will support the province’s strategy to address the toxic drug crisis and build on the actions the BC government is taking to expand access to mental health and addictions care, including increasing early intervention and prevention, treatment and recovery services, supportive and complex care housing, and harm reduction.

Read the BC Government press release