Overdose crisis continues to devastate lives in Vancouver
Emergency endures across the city with 2018 data averaging more than one overdose death a day
"The unrelenting overdose crisis continues to take mothers, fathers, daughters, sons, friends, and loved ones away from people all across Vancouver - and the data shows that the majority of people we've lost are inside, and alone."
Mayor Kennedy Stewart
In 2018, 382 people died from an overdose in the city compared with 376 people in 2017, data released by the BC Coroners Service today shows.
Vancouver remains at the epicentre of the public health emergency declared by the Province in 2016, and while increased investments have saved many lives, the City recognizes that bold actions need to be taken together with all partners to change the course of the crisis.
"The unrelenting overdose crisis continues to take mothers, fathers, daughters, sons, friends and loved ones away from people all across Vancouver - and the data shows that the majority of people we've lost are inside, and alone." said Mayor Kennedy Stewart. "By continuing to invest in proven life-saving efforts - such as supervised injection sites, projects addressing stigma, and a clean drug supply - we sincerely hope that we can begin to turn the tide on the public health emergency which continues to grip our city"
Initial actions to mitigate impact
As of 2017, the City contributes approximately $3.5M in annual funding towards mitigating the impact of the crisis.
In December 2018, the results of Mayor's Overdose Emergency Task Force were presented, with Council approving one-time funding of $500,000 towards initial actions under the following seven themes:
- Investments in Indigenous healing and wellness
- Supporting peer first responders to save lives
- Expanding harm reduction in the DTES
- Supporting a safer supply of drugs
- Expanding access to treatment supports
- Outside the DTES: Harm reduction, treatment, and supports
- Collective action with partners for systemic changes
In 2018, the City also began co-chairing the Vancouver Community Action Team with Vancouver Coastal Health, a group made up of various stakeholders who are key in addressing the crisis from a local perspective.
What we're doing in 2019
This year, the City will continue to work with partners, including people who use drugs, to implement life-saving efforts and call on the provincial and federal governments for increased support in reducing the harms caused by illicit drug use, recognizing addictions as a public health issue, not a criminal one, promoting access to a wide range of treatment options and addressing the social determinants of drug use and addiction such as housing, poverty and unemployment.
Supporting Megaphone's Speakers Bureau
One organization the City is supporting this year is Megaphone with their Speakers Bureau.
"The Speakers Bureau is a team of people with experience using drugs who are hosting public events and private workshops connecting audiences with people who have firsthand experience of drug use and overdose prevention," said Jessica Hannon, Megaphone's Executive Director, who designed the series alongside the City of Vancouver's People with Lived Experience Advisory Committee on mental health and substance use.
"The workshops and free public events are designed to help change our understanding of the overdose crisis, including why people are dying and how individuals can help stop these deaths at the policy, community, and individual level. We hope that building awareness and compassion in communities confronted by the overdose epidemic will help start to reduce the stigma associated with drug use."