By: Councillor Kerry Jang
The fentanyl opioid crisis is having a devastating impact on our streets and on the most vulnerable members of our community. Last year, 261 people died in Vancouver from deaths that were entirely preventable.
I want to share with you some of the work we’re doing at City Hall.
In December, City Council made the tough decision to add an extra 0.5% property tax increase to help deal with this crisis. Our police and firefighters are inundated with calls, responding to dozens of overdoses a day. Local community groups are stretched thin as they step in to cover the gaps in our health care system – and the demands are only growing as the crisis gets worse.
Yesterday, Council approved the first phase of that new funding. It includes:
- A boost for a Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services’ mobile unit in the Downtown Eastside;
- More naloxone and mental health and addictions training for City workers in the community likely to encounter overdoses;
- A new, volunteer-led Community Policing Centre in Strathcona that focuses on better integration between local residents, social supports and emergency services;
The meeting was also a reminder of what’s at stake in each civic election: the NPA city councillors voted “No” to all three recommendations.
City staff will be reporting back in the coming weeks with the next phase of investments to address the fentanyl opioid crisis, which will focus on supporting front-line service workers and peer-run organizations.
There’s no single solution. Mayor Robertson has been outspoken on the range of tools we need. A big increase in drug treatment that is available on demand. Increased provincial funding for paramedics and the BC Ambulance Service. The need for the federal government to repeal Stephen Harper’s anti-harm reduction legislation. Cities cannot deal with this crisis on our own.
We’ve been advocating for all levels of government to treat this like the public health emergency it is. Last week, Mayor Robertson spoke to Prime Minister Trudeau about the need for the federal government to take a stronger leadership role in this crisis, as other big cities like Toronto are seeing overdose deaths increase. We’re hopeful that both the provincial and federal governments will take further steps in the coming weeks to address this crisis.
There’s much more work to do. Our efforts won’t solve things on their own, but as a city, we’ll continue to do what we can, both through our own services and by advocating to senior levels of government.
Thanks for your support,