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BCGEU encouraged by Vancouver’s New Investments in Harm Reduction


Yesterday Vancouver City council made important steps in bolstering their response to the fentanyl crisis by releasing the second wave of funding intended to provide support to affected communities.

“We are encouraged by City Council’s focus on providing the necessary relief to the hardest hit communities, and to hear about an additional focus on supporting front line workers.” said BCGEU President Stephanie Smith.

A motion approving over $350,000 towards harm reduction measures is a positive step towards addressing rising public health concerns. The funds will be used to fund initiatives addressing the impacts of the crisis on people living in single room occupancy (SRO) hotels and shelters, as well as supporting first responders’ mental health.

Trauma associated with saving lives is an incredibly heavy burden on workers, and society has a responsibility to take care of them in their time of need. Funding for proper debriefing, counselling, and support is essential to the healing process for anybody intervening in an overdose.

The reality of the situation is that people working within the affected communities are the first to respond to an overdose, keeping people alive until paramedics can arrive. Recognizing them as first responders means that they can get access to the counselling supports that they need.

Additional funding for partnerships with community organizations to hold peer-to-peer overdose training will help provide people living in SROs and shelters the tools to support each other in these trying times.  

This funding is a positive step in the right direction towards halting the exponential growth of the public health crisis. Hopefully this signals the start of similar initiatives in cities and municipalities across the province as other jurisdictions follow Vancouver’s lead.

The BCGEU represents 72,000 workers in B.C. including over 10,000 in community social services and many more in mental health and addictions.