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Acknowledging the frontline workers of two health care crises


April 15, 2020 marks the fourth anniversary of the declaration of the overdose crisis as a public health emergency in British Columbia.

In a statement recognizing the date this week, Judy Darcy, B.C.’s first Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, said “In this unprecedented time of two public health emergencies, we must work together to both flatten the curve and stop overdose deaths. We cannot afford to stop caring about one health-care crisis as we stare down another.”

BCGEU represents hundreds of members working on the front lines of not only the COVID-19 pandemic, but the overdose crisis. We would want to take this opportunity to recognize the incredible work of our members who are working around the clock under extraordinarily challenging and stressful circumstances: members at worksites such as RainCity Housing, Lookout Housing and Health Society, Victoria Cool Aid Society, Atira Women’s Resource Society, the mental health outreach workers working for the health authorities and so many more across B.C. Our members put themselves at risk to help keep communities safe from COVID-19 and to protect some of our province’s most vulnerable people from overdose, withdrawal or other harms. 

While we applaud the recent move our government has made on safe supply and efforts to support physical distancing and other public health measures among drug users, we urge more action to protect drug users, the homeless, and the workers who care for them like making sure the safe supply measure implemented for the duration of the pandemic become permanent, and ensuring access to personal protective equipment (PPE) for front line workers in mental health, homelessness and addiction services.

We echo Minister Darcy’s sentiments and appreciate her recognition of people working on the front lines of the overdose crisis: “Every single day, I am awed by the dedication, ingenuity and passion of the thousands of people on the front lines of the fentanyl-poisoning crisis in British Columbia,” says Darcy. Now, more than ever, we must recognize the hard work, sacrifices and inherent value of our members’ and how they continue to save lives each and every day through these unprecedented times. Their unwavering dedication and resilience inspire us.