Vancouver's approach to the overdose crisis

In 2016, following a significant increase in opioid-related overdose deaths, a public health emergency was declared in BC – that year, an unprecedented 995 people lost their lives to an overdose across the province. 

Driven by an increasingly toxic drug supply that is contaminated by fentanyl and other deadly substances, this crisis has spread across the entire country — nearly 4,000 people lost their lives to an overdose in Canada in 2017.

Vancouver has been at the epicentre of this public health emergency. 

Overdose data: February 11 to February 17, 2019

One suspected overdose death was recorded by VPD, down from three the week before.

  • This is six less than the weekly average in 2018

107 calls reporting suspected overdoses were recorded by VFRS, down from 86 the week before.

  • This is 6% higher than the weekly average in 2018

In 2017, calls to Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services to respond to overdose incidents increased 150% over 2015 levels.

Overdose deaths since 2014

*Fentanyl-decteted overdose is only up to September 2018.
Source: BC Coroners Service

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

What we're doing

We've served as a municipal leader when it comes to responding to issues relating to substance use and addiction since we implemented the Four Pillars Drug Strategy in 2004.

We work with partners in health, public safety, and community to support access to health and treatment services and City staff regularly reports updates on collaborative efforts and shares the latest data with Council.

Four Pillars drug strategy

Vancouver's Four Pillars Drug Strategy is a coordinated, comprehensive approach that balances public order and public health in order to create a safer, healthier community.

Safe injection site and needle exchange

Safe injection sites help decrease the adverse health, social, and economic consequences of drug use without requiring abstinence.

Mental Health and Addictions

The mandate of the task force is to help the City identify priority actions to improve quality, accessibility, and choice within the system of care for people with serious mental health and addiction issues.

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 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

  • We are here
  • Ongoing

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

  • Ongoing

    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

News about the overdose crisis

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.

Twenty-six suspected overdose deaths in Vancouver in September

October 5 2018 - City's ongoing partnership with Metro Vancouver Aboriginal Executive Council (MVAEC) aims to improve opioid response strategy amongst Indigenous communities

Seven suspected overdose deaths in Vancouver during the week of September 10

September 24 2018 - An estimated 265 people have lost their lives to an overdose in Vancouver in 2018 - already on par with 2017 figures.

Find the help you need

Health Canada

If you are struggling with substance use, find resources to answer your questions, offer advice, or provide hands-on help.

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.