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Vancouver's approach to the Overdose Crisis

Days since the Overdose Crisis was declared a BC public health emergency

Safe Supply Statement

Join the City of Vancouver and the Community Action Team to champion the new Vancouver Safe Supply Statement by sharing on social with #SafeSupply and #EndOverdose.

In 2016, following a significant increase in opioid-related overdose deaths from drug poisoning, a public health emergency was declared in BC. Since then, over 3,600 people have lost their lives to overdoses across BC.

Driven by an increasingly toxic drug supply contaminated by fentanyl, carfentanil, and other contaminants, Vancouver is at the epicentre of this public health emergency, with over 1,000 deaths since the beginning of 2016. The overdose death rate in Vancouver has increased every year since 2014, and the number of deaths continues to surpass historical highs.

Our next steps

To prevent more drug poisonings and overdose deaths include advocating and supporting a safe supply of drugs, we're working with political leaders at all levels on strategies for addressing the overdose crisis and increasing access to a safe supply, and working collaboratively with our partners, including people with lived and living experience, on supporting community-based initiatives and de-stigmatizing mental health and substance use.

Given the disproportionate representation of Indigenous people affected by the overdose crisis and among overdose deaths, and lack of safety and knowledge on issues affecting Indigenous people within mainstream services, specific interventions are needed for Indigenous people. Indigenous-led initiatives, culture and ceremony, and the involvement of Indigenous peers and Elders have played a critical role in saving Indigenous peoples’ lives during the overdose crisis.

Learn more about the impact of the crisis on Vancouver and BC:

Find the help you need

Metro Vancouver Indigenous Services Society (MVISS)

MVISS provides culturally diverse support services creating a safe and caring environment for people to connect with self and community.

Toward the Heart

Visit BC Centre for Disease Control’s guide to learn about responding to an overdose, naloxone programs, and how to stay safer and healthier.

Moms Stop the Harm

If you have lost a loved one to overdose, reach out to Moms Stop the Harm, a network of Canadian families whose loved ones have died from substance use. This organization offers grief support for those struggling with this loss.

BC211's Redbook

View a complete online directory of programs and services in Vancouver for residents with alcohol or drug misuse issues.

Stronger Together

Stronger Together is a series of dialogue and learning sessions hosted by the BC Centre for Substance Use for people impacted by substance use.

BC Bereavement Helpline

The helpline works to have the most updated information on grief support groups specific to substance use.

The Grief Handbook

A handbook developed by the BC Centre for Substance Use on navigating grief and loss from substance use.

Overdose Crisis statistics

By week (August 5 to 11, 2019)

Suspected overdose deaths
This week 0
Last week 3
2018 weekly average 7

Source: Vancouver Police

Calls reporting suspected overdoses
This week 97
Last week 117
2018 weekly average 101

Source: Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services

Data subject to change upon monthly release of BC Coroners Service report.

By year

*BC Coroner's Service data available up until June 30, 2019.

Source: BC Coroners Service

News about the overdose crisis

Mayor’s Overdose Emergency Task Force recommendations

July 24 2019 - Vancouver continues to experience historically high numbers of drug poisonings as the overdose emergency continues.

Vancouver mourns the lives lost to overdose

April 14 2019 - City Hall flag flies at half-mast to recognize the many lives lost to overdose.

Overdose crisis continues to devastate lives in Vancouver

February 7 2019 - In 2018, 382 people died from an overdose in the city compared with 376 people in 2017, data released by the BC Coroners Service shows.

What we're doing

Since 2014, we've served as a municipal leader in responding to issues related to substance use and addiction since we implemented the:

We work with partners in health, public safety, and community to support access to harm reduction and treatment, including overdose prevention services, as well as Indigenous approaches to healing and wellness.

We also work in a number of policy areas to address the social determinants of mental health and substance use.

Our work is done in partnership with people affected by the crisis, non-profit and advocacy groups, urban Indigenous organizations, housing providers, researchers, health and emergency services, and people who use drugs.

We report updates on our collaborative efforts and share the latest data with Council.

Mayor’s Overdose Emergency Task Force

In December 2018, Council approved one-time funding of $500,000 for the Mayor’s Overdose Emergency Task Force, which is currently implementing the following items to prevent further deaths:

  • 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

Vancouver’s Community Action Team (CAT)

The main goals of CAT, co-chaired by the City and VCH representing approximately 25 organizations who are working on or are affected by the crisis, are:

  • Prevent people from using substances alone
  • Raise awareness of the role of drug policy
  • Expand low-barrier opioid distribution pilots
  • Support the wellbeing of the peer workforce 

Crisis funding

Over $3 million of the funds from a property tax increase in December 2016 went on mitigating the impacts of the overdose emergency in 2017 through various initiatives.

Towards projects, programs, and events
Employment support and resourcing
Towards innovative equipment

 

How the funding was spent

Action in Vancouver and beyond

We’re working with partners to implement life-saving efforts in the city and calling on the federal government for change.

  • December 9, 2016

    BC Health Minister, Terry Lake, authorizes overdose prevention services

  • December 2016

    Rise in Vancouver property tax to fight fentanyl crisis

  • December 2016

    Implementation of VCH's Mobile Medical Unit at 58 W Hastings St for overdose response and rapid access to treatment

  • December 2016

    Overdose Prevention Society establishes the first overdose prevention site in North America

  • January 2017

    Implementation of an overdose surveillance system and weekly reporting with VPD, VFRS, and VCH

  • April 2017

    Representatives present to the Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs in support of Bill C-37, to support the streamlining of supervised consumption site applications

  • April 2017

    VPD equips officers with naloxone

  • May 2017

  • April 2018

    Vancouver City Council formally endorses opioid distribution pilot at the BCCDC led by Dr. Mark Tyndall

  • March 2018

    58 E Hastings St transitions overdose prevention site indoors

  • Complete

    Mayor Gregor Robertson chairs the Federation of Canadian Municipalities Big City Mayor’s Task Force on the Opioid Crisis, issuing recommendations to the federal government to save lives and support a public health approach

  • We are here
  • Ongoing

    Develop partnership with Vancouver’s Community Action Team to develop an action plan and multi-sectoral response

  • Ongoing

    Implementation of Mayor Kennedy Stewart’s Overdose Emergency Task Force action items focused on safe supply, harm reduction, community support, and investments to reduce overdose deaths