Today Council heard the latest update from City staff and Vancouver Coastal Health on how the fentanyl opioid crisis is affecting all corners of Vancouver. We had the highest number (215) and highest rate of deaths of all BC cities last year - first responders at Firehall #2 alone responded to nearly 3,000 overdose calls, nearly triple the number than in 2015.
It has never been more urgent to act. This intense frequency of overdose response is unsustainable, overwhelming our first responders, front line workers and community volunteers. The City is doing more than its share to combat the fentanyl crisis but we’re at a breaking point: better access to addictions treatment, substitution therapy and detox is crucial to save lives and reduce the intense burden on everyone working to keep people alive and help them recover.
This week Council is considering up to $3.5 million in practical and immediate measures to fight the fentanyl opioid crisis on the front lines and save lives: continued support for the mobile medic unit at Firehall #2, more naloxone training for community service workers to prevent overdose deaths, and a new, volunteer-driven Community Policing Centre in Strathcona to support community safety and enhance quality of life. The City’s investments in our first responders and community policing volunteers are tangible actions the City can take within our control to support our front line workers and are the right thing to do to prevent overdose deaths that have reached horrific and heartbreaking levels. I hope every Council member will support these new measures.
Last week I spoke with Prime Minister Trudeau about the critical urgency of the fentanyl opioid crisis and the need for strong leadership from the federal government to ensure the resources, data and international best practices are coordinated across Canada. Vancouver will continue to support efforts to save lives, but we need the BC and Federal governments to treat the fentanyl opioid crisis like the public health emergency it is, with immediate investments in more treatment, education, supportive housing and drug policy reform.
-Mayor Gregor Robertson