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Vancouver calls for safe drug supply, more funding in overdose battle
An anti-fentanyl advertisement funded by the Vancouver Police Foundation is seen on a sidewalk, on Tuesday, April, 11, 2017. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward)
VANCOUVER - A task force created by the mayor of Vancouver to address the ongoing drug overdose crisis has made eight more recommendations, including a call for the federal government to ensure a safe drug supply and provide more money to help those at risk.
Vancouver council approved 31 recommendations from the Mayor's Overdose Emergency Task Force in December and received a progress report Tuesday.
The staff report says 14 actions have been completed and progress has been made on 16 more, while the eight new recommendations come from a specialized team of front-line workers, residents and city officials.
Those proposals include issuing a statement declaring a “drug poisoning crisis,” as well as support for drug policy reforms that could pave the way for creation of a safe drug supply.
The task force is also seeking more than $3 million in additional federal funding to bolster existing overdose prevention strategies in Vancouver.
Mayor Kennedy Stewart says immediate action needs to be taken to prioritize a safe, regulated drug supply while also increasing investments in services aimed at preventing overdoses.
“Vancouver has never shied away from its leadership role in advancing harm-reduction policies and safe supply is no different,” Stewart says in a statement.
Al Fowler, vice-president of the BC Association of People on Opiate Maintenance, says in a news release that creation of a safe supply is key because prohibition turns illegal substances into money making ventures for dealers who have little regard for the safety of drug users.
“It's our family and friends dying, and we need action not just words. We need to move on creating a safe supply before it's too late,” Fowler says.
The City of Vancouver has approved $103,500 for a strategy that would improve response times to overdoses and is seeking $2 million in federal investments to offer help for those at risk, especially to improve overnight service.
The task force also calls for a further $1.3 million in federal funding for the Vancouver School Board so youth programs that prevent, delay and reduce substance use related issues can continue.