Responding to the Overdose Crisis in BC: A Rapid Assessment of Frontline and Advocacy Organizations’ Capacity- and Skills-Building Needs

On April 14, 2016, Dr. Perry Kendall, the Provincial Health Officer, declared a public health emergency under the Public Health Act as a result of a dramatic increase in the number of opioid-related overdose deaths across British Columbia (BC) since the beginning of 2016. Because PAN’s member agencies and partners have been on the frontlines of responding to, reversing, and managing grief and loss related to overdoses, substantial time was spent discussing the opioid crisis and national drug policy at the PAN Fall Conference in October 2016. After the conference, PAN staff put together a Drug Policy Report summarizing these conversations.

Building on momentum from the conference and a strong desire to support the work already happening in community-based organizations (CBOs) across the province, PAN and the BC Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) started a conversation about how PAN can best support progress on this issue. The discussion put into motion a rapid assessment to determine key capacity- and skills-building activities that would support frontline organizations responding to BC’s overdose crisis.

Key stakeholders from across the province, including people with lived experience, CBO staff, outreach nurses, and Regional Harm Reduction Coordinators, were invited to participate in the rapid assessment. Most invitees were eager to make time to schedule these 20- to 30-minute phone calls despite their stretched resources, commenting that they had prioritized this invitation as an opportunity to report on what they were experiencing in their organizations and to voice the needs of their staff, members and clients. This high level of stakeholder engagement in the rapid assessment speaks to a province-wide need for capacity- and skills-building activities, as well as other forms of sustained support, in response to this crisis.


The 24 respondents who participated in the rapid assessment were asked five key questions:

  1. What are the biggest issues your organization is facing in relation to the overdose crisis in BC?
  1. What kinds of capacity-building and skills-building activities would best support your work?
  1. What would be your preference for the delivery of these capacity- and skills-building activities? (e.g. webinar, face-to-face, telephone, written materials, or other)
  1. Are there any capacity- or skills-building activities related to the overdose crisis already happening in your region or community?
  1. Do you feel that there is a need for grief, vicarious trauma, compassion fatigue, burnout, loss, or trauma/crisis work in your organization or community and how can PAN best provide support?


The responses provided by the key stakeholders were analyzed and summarized in a report that will guide PAN’s next steps. If you are interested in reading the results of the rapid assessment, please click here to download the report.

Questions? Feedback? Get in touch!
Heather Holroyd, Community Based Research and Evaluation Projects Contractor
[email protected]