On Wednesday night, Vancouver Fire and Rescue hosted me on a ride-along at Fire Hall 2 for a first-hand view of the horrific impacts of the fentanyl overdose crisis in the Downtown Eastside. Even after months of talking to firefighters, police, outreach workers, drug users and health providers on the frontlines of the overdose crisis, and reading countless reports and news stories, it was shocking to see the extreme impacts of fentanyl.
Emergency responders are swamped with calls to save people who are minutes away from death. The intensity and frequency of these calls puts severe strain on our first responders. They are tirelessly and very effectively responding to emergency calls in a devastating public health crisis, saving dozens of lives a day. And they're seeing very vulnerable people die a tragic, preventable death. This crisis is inhumane and managing it with first responders is unsustainable.
I've met with our provincial and federal health ministers - both of whom recently visited Fire Hall 2 - and I know they take this issue very seriously and are working to deploy more resources. There is no single solution to this overdose crisis, as we need both immediate action to better manage this grave emergency, and long-term efforts to support treatment and prevention, address mental illness and homelessness, and go after the drug supply.
I strongly urge the federal government to expedite Vancouver Coastal Health’s applications for two new supervised injection sites in Vancouver. We also urgently need more treatment/detox on demand, which is sorely needed not only in Vancouver, but across BC as cities and our first responders struggle to the fentanyl crisis and support our most vulnerable residents.
The City invests significant tax dollars into fire and rescue response, affordable housing, policing, and social service organizations, and we will continue to work with the BC and Federal government to quickly deploy resources to support front line workers and save lives.
-Mayor Gregor Robertson