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Mayor’s Overdose Emergency Task Force recommendations champion regulated safe drug supply and overdo

City of Vancouver

News release

July 24, 2019

City calls on federal government to end the crisis with policy changes and an additional $3.25M in investments

Despite the focused effort to prevent overdose deaths across the city, Vancouver continues to experience historically high numbers of drug poisonings as the overdose emergency continues. Yesterday, City staff presented an update to Council on the implementation of the 31 Mayor’s Overdose Emergency Task Force recommendations approved in December 2018. The update showed completion of 14 proposed actions and progress on 16 proposed actions to date, as well as eight new recommendations based on the ongoing engagement with the Vancouver Community Action Team (CAT) in response to the overdose crisis. The City of Vancouver continues to take a leadership role in addressing the overdose crisis, working with people with lived experience, who are placing emphasis on the need for a safe supply to end the crisis. Staff’s new recommendations included a combination of City-owned actions and called for $3.25 million in targeted investments from the Federal government to bolster existing overdose prevention responses in Vancouver.

“Immediate action needs to be taken to prioritize a safe, regulated drug supply in Canada. In the meantime, it is crucial that the Federal government increase investments in overdose prevention services,” says Mayor Kennedy Stewart. “Vancouver has never shied away from its leadership role in advancing harm reduction policies and safe supply is no different. Backed by the Vancouver Police Department, Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services, Vancouver Coastal Health, and those with lived experience in our community, we know this approach can prevent more deaths in Vancouver and beyond.”

Some of the additional measures approved from today’s report include:

Drug Policy Reform: Safe Supply

  • A safe supply statement created in collaboration with CAT deeming this a ‘drug poisoning crisis’ that will be shared with other government partners to advocate for access to a regulated drug supply

  • A motion to be put forward to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities to support advancing drug policy reform

"Prohibition turns illegal substances into a money making opportunity for drug dealers who have very little regard for the safety of people who use drugs," said Al Fowler, Vice President of the BC Association of People on Opiate Maintenance. "It's our family and friends dying, and we need action not just words. We need to move on creating a safe supply before it's too late."

Safe Community Spaces and Places: Overdose Prevention

  • An increase of $103,500 in City investments for an Overdose Response Washroom Implementation Strategy aligned with Vancouver Coastal Health guidelines to improve response times to overdoses or other emergencies that occur in washrooms, and save lives

  • An additional $2M investment from the Federal government to ensure that all agencies in Vancouver offering services to those at risk, including overnight services, are accessible and safe for everyone: men, women, and all genders, and that funding be proportional to the needs and impacts for specific groups i.e. Indigenous communities who have experienced the negative impacts of historical and ongoing colonialism

  • $80,000 in annual funding to the Portland Hotel Society to prioritize making space for culture and wellness for people accessing the Drinker’s Lounge managed alcohol program

“Pop up wellness and cultural spaces are essential players in overdose prevention,” said Samantha Pranteau, Tenant Overdose Response Organizer. “By fostering a community culture of respect, honour, dignity, and empowerment, and embracing an Indigenizing approach to harm reduction, we can significantly reduce overdose numbers.”

Early Intervention: Youth Overdose Prevention

  • A $1.3M contribution from the Federal government to the Vancouver School Board to ensure continuation of youth programs to continue to prevent, delay, and reduce substance use related issues and promote relationships, connectedness, positive youth development, and social and emotional learning

  • A $150,000 contribution from the Federal government for three years of funding to McCreary Centre Society to ensure essential prevention initiatives for youth aging out of care are not interrupted during the overdose crisis, thereby decreasing the risk of youth using high risk substances which increase the risk of overdose

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