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 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, more than 5,000 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 more than 1,800 deaths since the beginning of 2016.

Overdose deaths have particularly increased at a devastating rate since March 2020 following COVID-19 restrictions. Rapid and ongoing drug toxicity changes have made the drug supply increasingly more poisonous, and more than half of the overdose deaths in 2020 occurred in private homes where people were often using alone.

What we're doing

Vancouver has long been at the forefront of innovative approaches to addressing substance use and has taken steps, such as:

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

To prevent more drug poisonings and overdose deaths, we're working with political leaders at all levels on strategies for addressing the overdose crisis and increasing access to a safe supply. We're working collaboratively with our partners, including Indigenous health leaders and people with lived and living experience, to support community-based initiatives and de-stigmatize mental health and substance use. We also work to address the social determinants of mental health and substance use, such as access to low-barrier employment, Indigenous healing and wellness, housing and homelessness, washrooms and water, and food security.

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. 

Indigenous community members living and working in the Downtown East Side (DTES) continue to be disproportionately impacted by the overdose crisis due to systemic racism and colonization. Indigenous-led initiatives, culture and ceremony, and Indigenous peers and Elders' involvement are essential in saving lives during the overdose crisis. The City is committed to investing in, and working alongside, these community-led initiatives.

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.

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

  • 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

  • Ongoing

    Work with the federal Ministers of Health, Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, and Justice and Attorney General to receive a federal exemption from the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act to decriminalize personal possession of illicit substances within the City’s boundaries