Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart speaks during a press conference in Vancouver on July 4, 2019. The City of Vancouver is providing funding for a now-permanent position to lead an initiative aimed at supporting people who have survived overdoses. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart speaks during a press conference in Vancouver on July 4, 2019. The City of Vancouver is providing funding for a now-permanent position to lead an initiative aimed at supporting people who have survived overdoses. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

Vancouver funds permanent position to lead overdose response team

Vancouver Fire Capt. Gormick has been appointed to oversee the combined overdose response team

The City of Vancouver is providing funding for a permanent position to lead a program aimed at supporting people who have survived overdoses.

Mayor Kennedy Stewart says a “very important” pilot program that paired firefighters with staff from Vancouver Coastal Health will stay in place to help people break the cycle of overdoses by connecting them with support services.

Vancouver Fire Capt. Jonathan Gormick has been appointed to oversee the combined overdose response team after working with the pilot program.

Gormick says they’ve been able to reach people who are at highest risk of fatal overdose and those facing the greatest barriers to accessing care.

Over 20 months, he says they’ve connected more than 150 patients to a range of supports — from health care to housing and income supports — which ultimately reduces the likelihood of another overdose.

Gormick says the new position dedicated to leading the program means the team is working to increase its visits and improve how it locates patients.

“The program is patient-driven. Options are provided without an agenda. And we figuratively and literally meet patients where they’re at,” he said during a news conference on Wednesday.

Dr. Patricia Daly, chief medical health officer for Vancouver Coastal Health, said the joint initiative is an important pathway to treatment and care, which could help the city as it seeks to decriminalize simple possession.

“This is one of the programs that will help us convince the federal government this is the right thing to do, we have the systems in place here to help people and link them to appropriate care,” she said.

The city expects to submit its final application to Health Canada for an exemption to federal drug laws by next month, Stewart said.

If approved, the exemption would put in motion the decriminalization of possession of small amounts of illicit drugs for personal use in the city.

“Decriminalization in our city will be a unique Vancouver model that fully embraces a health-care-focused approach and connects people with care and treatment, not stigma and criminalization,” Stewart said.

Drug toxicity and overdose deaths increased with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and more people in the Vancouver Coastal health region have died from overdose since last January than from COVID-19, Daly noted.

“Those who died of illicit drug overdoses were younger on average than those who died of COVID-19, and yet we’re not seeing the same public concern about these preventable deaths,” she said.

The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

B.C. overdosesopioid crisisVancouver

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Dawson Road Maintenance crews have been working on road base failures on Highway 20. (Dawson Road Maintenance Facebook photo)
ROAD REPORT: Dawson Road Maintenance provides update on Cariboo Chilcotin road conditions

Road bases still soft, saturated at multiple locations in Cariboo Chilcotin due to spring freshet

The Central Coast snowpack is now sitting at 146 percent (Felicia Harris photo)
Central Coast snowpack now 46 per cent above normal

The risk of spring flooding is elevated due to the above normal snowpack across the entire province

Residents line up socially distanced at the Seedy Saturday event, held at the Lobelco Hall parking lot from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. April 3 with strict COVID-19 restrictions and precautions in place. (Nicole Kaechele photo)
Seedlings, plants and seeds offered at Seedy Saturday

“It was a fairly good turnout,” noted Elizabeth Howard

The Bella Coola Valley Arts Council (BCVAC) has recently received two awards totaling $40,000 from the province-wide British Columbia Arts Council, part of the StrongerBC: BC’s Economic Recovery Plan. The grants are to be used to stimulate local arts communities and to help them cope with impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo submitted)
Bella Coola Valley Arts Council receives $40,000 for local projects

The grants will be used to stimulte local arts communities and help them cope with the pandemic

Nuxalk Sputc Crew technician Scmlh (Jason Moody) walks in Bella Coola River towards sputc holding tank with cinematographer Louvens Remy (photo submitted)
Documentary to highlight importance of sputc for Nuxalk Nation

Sputc: We Shall Eat When the River is Full is a cinematic tale of wealth, loss and recovery

A large crowd protested against COVID-19 measures at Sunset Beach in Vancouver on Tuesday, April 20, 2021. (Snapchat)
VIDEO: Large, police-patrolled crowds gather at Vancouver beach for COVID protests

Vancouver police said they patrolled the area and monitored all gatherings

FILE – RCMP officers wearing face masks to curb the spread of COVID-19 stand by as protesters opposed to the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion block rail lines, in Burnaby, B.C., on Friday, November 27, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
‘Very scary’: B.C. travel rules too vague, shouldn’t involve police, civil liberties group says

BCCLA said that speaking with communities could have avoided top-down approach

Ocean Legacy Foundation members conduct a shoreline pollution cleanup in Vancouver. (OLP)
It’s time to end ‘suffocating’ plastic pollution along B.C. shorelines, advocates urge

This Earth Day, Ocean Legacy Foundation is launching a free educational platform to educate the public about plastic pollution

A teacher-librarian in Nanaimo was fired in 2019 for checking out an age-inappropriate graphic novel to a student. The discipline agreement was published Wednesday, April 21. (News Bulletin file photo)
B.C. teacher-librarian fired for checking out too-graphic graphic novel to student

Teacher had been previously disciplined and suspended on two occasions

Former University of Victoria rowing coach Barney Williams is photographed in the stands during the Greater Victoria Invitational at CARSA Performance Gym at the University of Victoria in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, November 29, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Former B.C. university rowing coach ‘deeply sorry’ after complaints

Barney Williams says he’s been committed to ensuring no other member of the roster had a similar experience

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Aria Pendak Jefferson cuddles ChiChi, the family cat that ran away two years ago in Ucluelet. The feline was missing until Courtney Johnson and Barry Edge discovered her in the parking lot of the Canadian Princess earlier this month. Aria and her parents were reunited with ChiChi in a parking lot in Port Alberni. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)
B.C. girl’s wish granted as her cat came back, two years later

Courtenay family reunited with cat that went missing in Ucluelet in 2019

FILE – The Instagram app is shown on an iPhone in Toronto on Monday, March 19, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graeme Roy
Judge acquits B.C. teen boy ‘set up’ on sex assault charge based on Instagram messages

The girl and her friends did not have ‘good intentions’ towards the accused, judge says

Most Read