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

West Shore RCMP arrested a 42-year-old man April 11 following numerous reports of someone firing a rifle in a Malahat campground. (Courtesy of West Shore RCMP)
West Shore RCMP arrest man after shots fired at Malahat campground

Police received numerous reports of a man firing a rifle outside his camper trailer

Dave Kral, owner of the Cobblestone Inn in Cobble Hill, and his staff are frustrated with the new health restrictions banning indoor dining at restaurants in B.C. (Robert Barron/Citizen)
Cowichan Valley restaurants try to survive with new restrictions

Dining rooms ordered to close for three weeks as COVID-19 cases surge

The City of Duncan has begun the process to prepare a new transportation plan. (Robert Barron/Citizen)
Duncan gets on board with transportation plan

But high cost raises concerns

Burnaby MLA Raj Chouhan presides as Speaker of the B.C. legislature, which opened it spring session April 12 with a speech from the throne. THE CANADIAN PRESS
B.C. NDP promises more health care spending, business support in 2021 budget

John Horgan government to ‘carefully return to balanced budgets’

In Ontario, COVID-19 vaccine clinics have been set up at local mosques. (Submitted photo: Rufaida Mohammed)
Getting the vaccine does not break your fast, says Muslim COVID-19 task force

Muslim community ‘strongly’ encouraging people to get their shot, whether or not during Ramadan

A vehicle that was driven through the wall of a parkade at Uptown Shopping Centre and into the nearby Walmart on April 9 was removed through another hole in the wall later that night. (Photo via Saanich Police Department and Ayush Kakkar)
Police: mental health crisis likely in car driven through Saanich Walmart wall

Man in his early 20s drove through a parkade wall, no serious injuries reported

A plane is seen through the window on the tarmac of Vancouver International Airport as the waiting room is empty. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
100+ international travellers who landed in B.C. refused to quarantine

The Public Health Agency of Canada says it issued $3,000 violation tickets to each

A health-care worker holds up a vial of the AstraZeneca Covishield vaccine at a COVID-19 vaccination clinic in Montreal, Thursday, March 18, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
PHAC receives first report of blood clot linked to AstraZeneca

The federal agency says the person is now recovering at home

The Campbell River Gun Club outdoor range is located on Argonaut Road west of Campbell River. CRGC/Facebook photo
Campbell River Gun Club range shut down after complaints of stray bullets

Neighbour says bullets hit caretaker’s RV and shattered a glass panel on his deck

The Pacific Rim National Park Reserve’s Green Point Campground saw an unprecedented flurry of reservations last week. (Pacific Rim National Park Reserve photo)
Pacific Rim National Park Reserve campground sees ‘unprecedented’ interest

Reservations being accepted as Green Point Campground scheduled to open May 1

Restaurant owners Oura and Kymon Giakoumakis visit the PQB News/VI Free Daily studio. (Peter McCully photo)
PODCAST: COVID-19 pandemic hits Island’s food service industry hard

Pair of Vancouver Island restaurant owners share thoughts and advice

A real estate sign is pictured in Vancouver, B.C. THE CANADIAN PRESS Jonathan Hayward
1 in 3 young Canadians have given up on owning a home: poll

Data released Monday says 36% of adults younger than 40 have given up on home ownership entirely

Most Read