Vancouver’s request for cash to address opioid crisis would drain budget

By The Canadian Press
July 21, 2017 - 11:54am

VANCOUVER — The City of Vancouver says it will ask council to approve an additional $600,000 in spending on the opioid crisis as officials estimate over 400 people could die of illicit drug deaths by the end of the year.

It says in a news release that the request will be made next week and the funds would be used to address five priority areas identified by first responders and the community. 

Nearly half the money would be earmarked for initiatives to help urban Aboriginal communities, about $129,000 would be used to identify and deal with toxic drug supplies and $116,000 would help create programs to address the stigma of poverty and drug use.

The remainder would be spent on efforts to reduce social isolation among drug users, especially men, and to expand drug interventions beyond the Downtown Eastside.

If approved, the funding would empty Vancouver’s $3.5-million contingency budget for the opioid crisis approved by Mayor Gregor Robertson and council in the 2017 operating budget.

The $600,000 would be matched by just over $1 million in contributions from the health and non-profit sectors, and Robertson says the targeted, frontline investments would be a critical support for people working to save the lives of opioid overdose victims.

Vancouver “continues to do more than its share to tackle the drug overdose crisis by fighting stigma and connecting people to the health and addictions services they need, when they need them, and before fentanyl tragically takes another life,” Robertson says in the news release. 

The city says data from the coroner and police reveal more than 200 opioid-related deaths occurred in Vancouver between Jan. 1 and July 2, with five reported last week alone, and the hike is believed to be due to widespread contamination of the illicit drug supply.

It also says the BC Coroners Service reports that the painkiller fentanyl and related drugs have been detected in about 60 per cent of the overdose deaths in the city.

The Canadian Press

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