Victoria – Today the Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions announced an escalation of their emergency response to the overdose crisis. To deal with the deepening crisis across the province, the government is setting up a centralized Overdose Emergency Response Centre to coordinate a response to the overdose crisis that spans the province.
“Seeing the government move forward with creating new full-time jobs to tackle this crisis is an extremely welcome development” said Stephanie Smith, BCGEU President. “Up until now, the response to the overdose crisis has fallen disproportionately on front line workers and members of the community who have stepped up in compassionate response. With a new comprehensive approach to resourcing the response there is hope we can start to turn the corner on the crisis.”
The new response centre will have a $6 million annual budget through to 2020. This will assist, among other things, in bringing together the many different public actors that have been dealing with issues related to the crisis, including: provincial ministries, health authorities, municipal and Indigenous governments, and law enforcement.
In the last year there have already been over 1100 overdose related deaths linked to fentanyl. The crisis has left families and communities trying to heal from the anguish of losing loved ones, as well as many workers in government agencies and front-line community services with serious trauma related to their work as first responders in many overdose cases.
Over the last twelve months, the BCGEU has consulted with members across the province to hear about how the crisis is affecting them, in particular, the mental health impacts for front line workers who act as first responders. A small number of those stories have been shared with the public at fentanyl.bcgeu.ca.
“The experience of our members, many of whom have been working as de-facto first responders, has been instrumental in helping us understand the cumulative impacts of this crisis on our communities and the networks of organizations and agencies that support them,” said Smith. “We will continue to support the fine work of members through the new emergency response centre, and where appropriate, seek to provide expert advice to the Ministry through the newly implemented structure.”
The BCGEU is British Columbia's fastest growing union, with more than 73,000 members working in direct government service, the broader public sector and private service sectors.