Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart launches Opioid Emergency Task Force

Kennedy Stewart
Official photo

VANCOUVER Mayor Kennedy Stewart launched his Opioid Emergency Task Force on Tuesday to help gather quick-start recommendations from a wide array of experts that will help the City of Vancouver quickly save lives. The Task Force was approved unanimously by City Council on November 14 and terms of reference were subsequently circulated to Councillors.

“The Opioid Emergency Task Force will rapidly gather the best recommendations from experts on the front lines of this crisis on how the City of Vancouver can use its resources to save lives,” said Stewart. “More than 30 people every month are dying. These are our friends and neighbours and we must take action immediately.”

Stewart has invited each member of the Community Action Team (CAT) to participate in the Task Force by asking them to identify their top five recommendations for action. Once recommendations are gathered, the CAT will be asked to rank the proposed options.

In addition to CAT members, Indigenous leaders and community members; people with lived experience; health, addictions research, housing and service operations providers and experts; City staff; first responders; and other identified community members will be asked to participate. A survey asking for recommendations will be distributed and a final report to City Council will be presented by the Mayor on December 18 with quick actions that can be implemented under the City’s jurisdiction and authority.

Dr. Patricia Daly, Chief Medical Health Officer for Vancouver Coastal Health and Community Action Team member, said: “Vancouver has the highest rate of overdose deaths in B.C. While many deaths have been prevented over the last two years through expanding harm reduction and treatment services and the tireless work of those on the front lines of the crisis, more work is needed. I welcome the opportunity to support the Mayor in identifying actions the City of Vancouver can take to reduce the risk of overdose and overdose death among its citizens.”

Sarah Blyth, founding member of the Overdose Prevention Society and Community Action Team member, said: “Workers and activists on the front lines of the opioid crisis have valuable knowledge and experience about how the City of Vancouver can take immediate steps to save lives. I’m glad the Mayor has asked for our input and I look forward to seeing our recommendations lead to action as quickly as possible.”