VANCOUVER Mayor Kennedy Stewart on Tuesday released his Emergency Overdose Task Force report including recommendations for immediate action on the overdose crisis. The report outlines initial actions the City can take over the next 18 months to work together with community and government partners to fill current gaps and prevent death from overdose.
“Despite the best efforts of peer support workers, first responders, health care professionals and community members, Vancouver’s overdose crisis will claim about the same number of lives in Vancouver in 2018 as it did in 2017,” said Stewart. “With almost one person dying every day from overdosing in Vancouver, this reality is unacceptable.”
Among the 23 recommendations outlined in the report, the mayor highlighted strategies that focus on support for people and peers, stopping the cycle of overdose, and introducing a safe supply to tackle the poisoned drug problem.
“These recommendations have come from the community and experts on the front lines. They’re telling us that we need to invest in programs that reduce the risk of overdose where it’s happening, ending the cycle of overdose by working on harm, and addressing our poison drug supply by increasing availability of low barrier pilot projects and wider distribution of testing strips,” said Stewart.
The report calls for a $500,000 one time commitment from the City of Vancouver, $2,697,000 from the Province of B.C., and $770,000 from the federal government. The report now goes to Vancouver City Council on Thursday for approval.
The Task Force includes 115 individual members from the Community Action Team and helping develop the recommendations in the report brought forward by staff in approximately 37 days.
Sarah Blyth, founding member of the Overdose Prevention Society and Community Action Team member, said: “Peers and front line community volunteers have been struggling under the weight of this crisis for too long. The recommendations in the Mayor’s report move us closer to stopping the cycle of overdoses by focusing on cutting off the poison supply of drugs to people and I look forward to seeing Vancouver City Council, the Provincial and Federal governments all support it.”
Dr. Patricia Daly, Chief Medical Health Officer for Vancouver Coastal Health and Community Action Team member, said: “The overdose crisis is primarily a public health crisis and three years into this we’re still seeing one person die every day in Vancouver. The evidence says investment in treatment is the best way to stop people from dying, and I’m glad Mayor Stewart’s report stresses safe supply and replacement therapies.”
Chief Darrell Reid, Vancouver Fire Chief and Community Action Team member, said: “The Vancouver Fire Service is the busiest department in North America, and this is driven in part by being at the epicenter of the overdose crisis. Expanding resources for first responders and front line workers helps us move from a reactive to proactive response and will mean saving more lives.”
You can read the full report here: https://council.vancouver.ca/20181220/documents/spec1.pdf