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

The Town of Qualicum Beach is set to hold a byelection on May 15. (PQB News file photo)
Restaurant owners Oura and Kymon Giakoumakis visit the PQB News/VI Free Daily studio. (Peter McCully photo)
PQBeat: COVID-19 pandemic hits food service industry hard

Podcast: Parksville Qualicum Beach restaurant owners share thoughts and advice

The St. Andrews Lodge Historical and Cultural Society wants the old building included in the Town of Qualicum Beach’s Heritage Register. (PQB News file photo)
Qualicum Beach councillor offers to help pay St. Andrews Lodge society’s bills

Group wants building included in town’s heritage register

Ballenas Secondar School (PQB News file photo)
COVID-19: Another exposure reported at Parksville’s Ballenas Secondary

Public health staff are completing contact tracing

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and Premier John Horgan describe vaccine rollout at the legislature, March 29, 2021. (B.C. government)
1,262 more COVID-19 infections in B.C. Friday, 9,574 active cases

Province’s mass vaccination reaches one million people

The 10-part Netflix series Maid, which is being exclusively shot in Greater Victoria, was filming near Prospect Lake in Saanich last month. (Photo courtesy Fred Haynes)
Province announces $150,000 towards South Island film studio, fulfilling B.C. NDP promise

Investment to fund movie studio feasibility study at Camosun College

Tyson Ginter, 7, is proud of his latest Hot Wheels he recently received by Quesnel RCMP Const. Matt Joyce. (Photo submitted)
B.C. Mountie handing out toy cars to light up children’s faces

‘A lot of times it will be the only interaction they have with the police,’ says Const. Matt Joyce

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam speaks during a technical briefing on the COVID pandemic in Canada, Friday, January 15, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s ICUs see near-record of COVID-19 patients last week as variant cases double

Last week, Canadian hospitals treated an average of 2,500 patients with COVID-19, daily, up 7% from the previous week

University of Victoria rowing coach Barney Williams at the University of Victoria in Victoria, B.C. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
UVic, women’s rowing coach deny former athlete’s allegation of verbal abuse

Lily Copeland alleges coach Barney Williams would stand close to her and speak aggressively in the sauna

Librarian Katie Burns with the Fraser Valley Regional Libraries poses for a photo in Chilliwack on June 18, 2019. Monday, April 12, 2021 is Library Workers’ Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of April 11 to 17

Library Workers Day, That Sucks! Day, and Wear Your Pyjamas to Work Day are all coming up this week

Nanaimo RCMP are asking for the public’s help in identifying the man suspected of being involved in a stabbing. (Photo submitted)
Nanaimo RCMP trying to identify stabbing suspect who wielded rusty knife

Stabbing followed argument between two men at Port Place Shopping Centre April 1

The inside of the Campbell River Community Centre gymnasium has been marked off in order to facilitate the public flowing through the clinic as they receive their COVID-19 vaccination. Photo by Alistair Taylor – Campbell river Mirror
Leftover vaccines go into arms, not down the drain: Island Health

Immunization plan comes with built-in options for any unused vaccines at the end of the day

Most Read