Report: Response to the Opioid Overdose Crisis in Vancouver Coastal Health

Vancouver Coastal Health’s Chief Medical Health Officer, Dr. Patricial Daly, has released a new report: Response to the Opioid Overdose Crisis in Vancouver Coastal Health. It looks at harm reduction, improving treatment, and strategies for supportive environments.

It begins,  “Substance use disorder is a chronic, relapsing condition, requiring a comprehensive system of care that identifies people with substance use
disorder and proactively engages, retains, and re-engages them in care” (p. 5).

The report includes information on the prevalence of opioid overdose deaths within the Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) region as well as the overview of those who are dying. It also provides information on drug checking, harm reduction services, linking and engaging people in care, and integrating Indigenous cultural knowledge and values.

In the Recommendations section of the report, Daly makes the point for establishing a regulated supply of drugs:

Illegal drug overdose deaths are most closely influenced by the rapidly changing composition of
local illegal drug supplies, and simply expanding treatment for opioid use disorder will be insufficient to eliminate the risk of opioid overdose death. A regulated supply of pharmaceutical opioids is necessary to reduce the risk of death in a number high-risk populations. … Establishing a public health, regulatory approach to psychoactive substances is recommended by the Health Officers’ Council of BC7 to reduce the risk of harm from illegal and legal psychoactive substances. It is not an alternative to expanding prevention and treatment, but a critical additional strategy to reduce population harms. It is an acknowledgement that psychoactive substances, including opioids, will continue to be used by people for a variety of reasons, and the illegal nature of these substances is the primary risk factor for overdose death. (p. 29)

A call for decriminalization of personal possession of illegal drugs (p. 30) echoes the recommendation made at a provincial level by the report from Dr. Bonnie Henry, the Provincial Health Officer, released in April of this year: Stopping the Harm: Decriminalization of people who use drugs in BC. As the pressure from public health authorities mounts, we will keep our eyes on the progress of these recommendations.

Learn More

The report in full: Response to the Opioid Overdose Crisis in Vancouver Coastal Health

Vancouver Coastal Health Public Health page

Vancouver Coastal Health Harm Reduction page

Drug Use and Overdose Response resources



Questions? Feedback? Get in touch! Janet Madsen, Capacity Building  and Knowledge Translation Coordinator, [email protected]






Image: Focus by Andrew, Flickr (Creative Commons)