The increase is “a reminder that we are currently experiencing two public health emergencies: COVID-19 and the overdose crisis,” the city said in a statement.
From March 23 to 29, Vancouver police reported eight suspected overdose deaths, the most in a single week since August 2019, “and unlike the number of overdose deaths in the city over the past year.” , said the city. “The drug supply remains toxic with fentanyl and other contaminants found in many local illicit drugs.”
And while a number of companies have temporarily closed their operations, Insite and Powell Street Getaway remain open and Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) is working with service providers to ensure that overdose prevention sites are open to people.
VCH said it is also asking people to continue using supervised consumption and overdose prevention sites and recommends that housing providers continue to allow visitors and use other prevention strategies to that people don’t use alone in their rooms.
In addition, the Eastside Downtown Resident Response Team distributed approximately 1,000 BC / Yukon Association of Drug War Survivors “How to Access Safer Medicines” Brochures. The steps described were created using guidelines from the Center for Addiction in British Columbia for the purpose of mitigating risk during a dual public health emergency.
The city said that in partnership with VCH, it is creating a dashboard that monitors the impacts of both COVID-19 and public health overdose crises, and will continue to closely monitor overdose rates and clusters, working quickly with VCH, BC Housing and the non-profit community to respond.
These efforts are coming towards a dark anniversary: April 14, 2020 will mark the fourth anniversary of the declaration of the overdose crisis as a public health emergency in British Columbia. Since then, more than 4,700 people have died from an overdose in British Columbia, and more than 1,200 of these deaths have occurred in Vancouver.
Noting that it is working closely with VCH, the city said that new guidelines were released last week to help prescribers offer safer alternatives to street drugs, and “it is hoped that this step will reduce risk of overdose and will help drug users safely distance themselves physically to prevent COVID -19 transmission. “