The emergency task force, comprised of
115 members, from Vancouver has made a call based on the ongoing high number,
unusually so, of overdoses within the province. The current estimates for the
period of January to September of 2018 is a total of 1,143 British Columbians
deceased due to “illicit drug overdoses in the province.
These numbers a staggering, troubling,
and tragic. No question about it. The questions following from this, in terms of
not repeating the mistakes, are what we’re going to do about this in order to
not repeat our collective mistakes of the past, where these mistakes costs the
real lives and family members and friends around the province. This shouldn’t
be happening, or least at this rate.
That is to say, we can reduce the extent
and rate of the deaths within the province. The emergency task force for
British Columbia stated that there should be, via a call, an increase in the
levels of harm reduction provisions throughout the country.
One vulnerable area with few provisions,
and especially given the high risk demographics associated with post-secondary institutions, would bee the colleges,
polytechnics, and research universities within the province.
Something as simple as Naloxone kits on
campus can be helpful in the fight for greater levels of lifesaving happening within
the province. Of course, these do not amount to cure-alls, nor do any of the
other proposed “solutions,” which are, in fact, alleviatory measures for the
improve health and wellness of misusers within the province, and, indeed, around
Throughout the city, an increase in the
provisions would be helpful including a second harm reduction site for substance
users who can smoke under supervision in addition to having a “mobile option to reach those
outside of the Downtown Eastside.”
These are cheap, effective, and
reasonable harm reduction methodological implementations with the real
possibility for the improved wellbeing outcomes of the individual users and the
family and friends who could, potentially as with the other 1,143 others, lose
loved ones and confidantes.
As reported, the Globe and Mail stated, “The task force is also recommending an 18-month pilot project
that would see overdose prevention sites in at least five private single-room
occupancy (SRO) hotels, an expansion of these services in non-profit SROs and a
review of overdose risk in both public and private SRO bathrooms.”
Knnedy Stewart, the Mayor of Vancouver, remarked on the fifth
year of the overdose crisis with “no sign of slowing down” and, reflecting on
the realism of harm reduction noted before, talked about the measures not
solving the problem but reducing its severity.
The BC Coroners Service compiled data and then this formulated the
basis for the recommendations, in part, and a review of about 900 illicit
overdose case investigations discovered 39% were from smoking substance; hence,
the safe and supervised smoking can be an important and on point harm reduction
in practice measure.
In addition, 86% of the illicit drug overdose deaths happened
while inside and in private residences, shelters, and SROs, partly or even
significantly related to the stigma associated with substance of drug use and
There is only one place for supervised smoking at the moment. The
Executive Director of the Overdose Prevention Society, Sarah Blyth, moved the
operations of the society inside, subsequently similar sites opened around Vancouver.
Ms. Blyth explained, “The overdoses with smoking happen
immediately … people just drop… So creating places where people can do all
kinds of drugs is important.” The safety and wellbeing of British Columbians is
at risk around the province without further and extensive implementation of
Indeed, Vancouver Coastal Health is funding 27 non-profit SROs
and the emergency task force suggests or recommends funding 10 more. It’s that
severe and should be taken that seriously.
This would require $1 million per annum from the province, which
is, probably, minute in comparison to the amount of potential lives lost in the
midst of the overdose crisis.
“Another recommendation is to prioritize securing a space for a pilot
project led by the BC Centre of Disease Control that would
distribute the opioid hydromorphone to people who are at high risk of overdose
from illicit opioids,” The Globe and Mail
also reports, “Providing a clean supply would be a direct and immediate answer
to the fentanyl-contaminated illicit supply that has devastated communities
across North America.”
There are many, many other recommendations including low-barrier
and quickly accessible opioid agonist therapies in order to protect citizens
from dying who may misuse substance.
Overall, the task force aligns with the work of CSSDP here with
the inclusion of harm reduction philosophy and methodology as fundamental to
tackling the serious public health issue of overdoses.
Woo, A. (2018, December 18). Vancouver
overdose emergency task force calls for expanded harm reduction, safe supply.
Retrieved from https://www.theglobeandmail.com/canada/british-columbia/article-vancouver-overdose-emergency-task-force-calls-for-expanded-harm/.
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