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Vancouver Fire allotted nearly $2 million to fight opioid crisis

(Courtesy of City of Vancouver)

New 0.5 per cent hike in property tax dedicated to the opioid crisis in Vancouver

Nearly a thousand people died in 2016 because of drug overdoses

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – As people continue to die from opioid overdoses in our province, Vancouver’s fire department is hoping new funding for a medic unit will help ease the load on overworked crews.

Earlier this week, Vancouver City Council approved $3.5 million to help battle the ongoing opioid epidemic. Of that money, $2.2 million is going towards new measures and resources and $1.9 of that will be invested in a three-person medic unit at the fire hall on Main and Powell Streets, which has seen the most dramatic increase in calls, particularly for overdoses.

Captain Jonathan Gormick says the unit was started when the number of calls began going up a couple of years ago, but the cash for it was coming out of the department’s budget.

Now the money will come from the 0.5 per cent hike in property tax dedicated to the opioid crisis. “Instead of two apparatus, the existing Medic 2 and Engine 2, taking all the calls like 1,500 a month, there is now an extra piece of apparatus that can take approximately 30 per cent of that call volume.”

He adds the overdose crisis has been taxing members, both on a professional and personal level. “Now that we have the allocation from council, from the contingency fund, the money to staff it and provide the actual apparatus will come from that.”

Gormick adds this unit is only part of the solution, and investment in other initiatives needs to continue. He also says the department will consider increasing staffing levels to deal with the crisis.

December was another record-setting month in BC when it comes to the number of fatal drug overdoses, bringing the total of drug-related deaths in 2016 to 914.

December’s overdose total was 142, another record-breaking number. Four out of five cases were men and most between the ages of 30 and 49. Vancouver, Surrey and Victoria were the places with the highest number of deaths.