A message from AVI’s Executive Director, Katrina Jensen
Dear community members,
We are pleased to share The Overdose Crisis- Where To Next? report from the May 10th symposium on community response to the overdose crisis, as well as invite you to join us in the creation of a local Overdose Crisis Community Response Network for Victoria.
It’s been well over a year since a public health emergency was declared in British Columbia in response to unprecedented rising rates of overdose deaths. While the experience of grief and loss at times feels insurmountable, we are continually humbled and amazed at the strength and resilience of those at the frontlines of this crisis: the families who have found the strength and motivation to become community organizers; the people who use drugs that have lost so many friends and are still able to come to the table to share the wisdom and knowledge they carry; the harm reduction, housing, and healthcare workers whose expertise, compassion, and skills are the heart of overdose prevention and response.
The path ahead will be long and demanding, which makes it important to bring people together to share stories, review what’s been done, and to chart the way forward. On May 10th, a group of over 100 passionate individuals came together to do just so. The The Overdose Crisis- Where to Next? report is a representation of a first step that we took together that day, bringing together our collective experiences and knowledges and engaging in dialogue. We’re pleased to share an account of what participants shared with us on that day, and to report back on progress and next steps. There is strength in community.
As we noted at the symposium, the event was the beginning of a conversation, and we’re pleased to report that conversations, planning, and efforts have continued. A few notable outcomes to report on include:
- Following the symposium, Moms Stop the Harm, SOLID, No More Drug War Victoria, and AVI have been actively organizing to develop calls for action, public events, and memorial activities. Planning is actively underway for events and activities to mark Overdose Awareness Day on August 31.
- Dialogues with local Indigenous communities and leaders, as well as the First Nations Health Authority, that began at the symposium have continued. Relationships continue to be strengthened so that interventions are aligned with the needs of Indigenous communities.
- As the music festival season is upon us, naloxone training efforts have been expanded and AIDS Vancouver Island has launched a crowdfunding campaign to support these activities.
- The Westshore was identified as a community experiencing a significant gap in services. Efforts are underway to expand access to naloxone through AVI and Island Health as well as opioid substitution therapy and other services in this region.
- Local representatives have participated in overdose action exchanges and other events organized by the BC Centre for Disease Control and others.
Following the symposium, and in coordination with other provincial and regional planning activities, we are seeking to establish a local Overdose Crisis Community Response Network so we can:
- Bring together People Who Use Drugs, families, service providers and other community leaders to coordinate community response, better our collective actions, speak the truth about the harm of stigma and shame, and collaborate to save as many lives as possible.
- Ramp up community education efforts, seeking resources to develop regionally and culturally appropriate efforts to raise awareness around addiction, safer drug use, overdose prevention, and stigma reduction.
- Advocate for the production of a comprehensive directory for service users, their families, and advocates, that clearly lays out the myriad of service, both directly and indirectly offered through to the Greater Victoria community through Island Health
- Centre the voices and experiences of People Who Use Drugs and those most affected by overdose in decision making processes around overdose prevention and response
- Advocate for community-run, non-clinical Harm Reduction services that prioritize the safety and wellbeing of clients and maximize the knowledge in the community to provide effective care.
- Advocate for the inclusion of families and services to provide them support and assistance as they navigate services with their loved ones
- Continued advocacy to end the war on drugs, an end to policies that criminalize drug use, and the promotion of policy change to enable swift access to lifesaving treatments and interventions.
Our warmest thanks go out to all those who attended the May 10, 2017, symposium and took this step with us, and particularly the Songhees Nation who graciously hosted us at the Songhees Wellness Centre. As we move forward as a community that has come together in the face of crisis, we look forward to further opportunities to engaging in dialogue and taking action together.
Read the Report: The Overdose Crisis- Where to Next?