VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – The newly-minted Vancouver city council has unanimously approved a motion to request urgent funding from the province to help combat the ongoing opioid crisis, which has already caused over 300 deaths in the city so far this year.
The motion tabled by Councillor Melissa De Genova during the council’s first regular meeting Tuesday calls for at least “the amount of the 0.5% tax increase approved in 2016,” or roughly $3.5 million.
The move follows an opioid crisis update from Vancouver Coastal Health’s Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Patricia Daly.
According to data presented before council, the city is expected to record 304 opioid-related deaths between Jan. 1 and Nov. 4, and is on pace to match last year’s record number of 367 deaths.
“Last year there was about one death a day and we’re continuing to see that in Vancouver, so I wouldn’t say we’ve turned a corner,” Daly says. “Things aren’t getting worse, but they’re not yet getting better.”
WATCH: Fighting the opioid crisis: Could alley signs save lives?
Life expectancy in BC has seen a noticeable drop over the past two years, particularly among adult men and residents of Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, in large part because of the opioid crisis.
However, Daly’s presentation included some points of optimism. Modelling data indicates that if not for things like overdose prevention sites, the distribution of naloxone kits, and drug treatment programs, the number of overdose deaths could have been 250 per cent higher.
“Clearly there’s more work to be done, and I do see the most promising work ahead is really improving the treatment system for people with Opioid Use Disorder, getting people engaged in treatment, and keeping them on treatment,” Daly adds.
In addition to the motion requesting provincial funding, Mayor Kennedy Stewart intends to convene an Opioid Emergency Task Force to “advise Council on short and long-term interventions” to mitigate the impact of the crisis.