Reducing stigma and partnering with all government levels key to addressing Vancouver's opioid crisis
City staff, in partnership with Dr. Patricia Daly, Chief Medical Health Officer at Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH), presented an update to Vancouver's new Council today which highlighted current City priorities for 2019 in relation to the opioid crisis.
This year, 312 people have died from a suspected overdose across the city, with eight suspected overdose deaths last week - that's one more than the weekly average for last year. This year's numbers are similar to the numbers of confirmed overdose deaths at this point last year.
In 2017, 309 people in Vancouver died from an overdose from January 1 to October 31.
Vancouver has been at the epicentre of a public health emergency which was declared in BC in 2016, following a significant increase in opioid-related overdose deaths.
Today's update to Council identified the following priorities as essential to combatting the crisis devastating lives across the city:
- Working with all partners including VCH, BC Centre for Disease Control, Vancouver Police Department and Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services, people with lived experience and community groups to deliver critical services and to identify gaps and solutions.
- Monitoring the impact of the crisis on Vancouver's residents and coordinating the response across City departments.
- Addressing stigma by increasing understanding of addictions as a public health issue in partnership with people with lived experience.
- Collaborating with the local community, and provincial and national partners on both a local and pan-Canadian response.
A request for urgent funding
Following the update, a motion was unanimously passed by Council for Mayor Kennedy Stewart to request urgent funding from the provincial government.
The City approved a 0.5 per cent tax increase in 2016, which raised approximately $3.5 million to support a response to the overdose crisis in 2017.
Council will request that the provincial government provide at least the amount raised by the tax increase to help Vancouver fund resources allocated to the crisis, which will be identified in the City’s 2019 operating budget.
BC Coroners Service
Toxicology reports on the most recent deaths are not yet complete, and final overdose death numbers need to be confirmed by the BC Coroners Service.