Front line workers are first responders
The bravery of front line workers has been tremendously moving. Responding to cries for naloxone, administering CPR, calling 911.
They have saved countless lives by selflessly acting as first responders despite the incredible risk to their own safety. If they are doing the same job, that means they need to have the same supports, and access to counselling that is given to paramedics, fire fighters, and police officers.
Peer counselling can be a stop gap measure
While we lobby governments and employers to provide access to appropriate professional services people need relief now.
Peer to peer counselling immediately after a traumatic event can be a very positive support, especially when paired with access to professional counselling. We need to work with employers to recommend that peer counselling networks be setup across multiple worksites where people are having similar experiences responding to overdoses.
Workers need affordable, easy to use Naloxone kits after training
Over 40% of workers told us they have had some sort of Naloxone training.
These individuals are then expected to purchase their own needle-based kits at the cost of hundreds of dollars. These kits require the first responder to inject Naloxone into the person suffering an overdose. This can be intimidating for first time responders, and poses a risk to the worker administering it.
Officially recognized first responders like police officers are being issued simpler nasal spray Naloxone kits. Government should be providing these at little to no cost to front line workers in recognition of their work as first responders. Saving lives should not cost the first responder money.
Fentanyl is a symptom not the crisis
Workers have told us they are not hopeful that the spike in overdoses will go down anytime soon especially if the only substantial plan is to increase access to Naloxone, and step up enforcement.
Poverty, homelessness, and lack of adequate mental health supports are responsible for the addiction crisis. We need to address the root cause of addiction and poverty. That means increased access to safe injection sites, reducing stigma related to using drugs, funding for supportive housing, and good paying stable jobs for people so that they don't end up living on the street.
The crisis isn't only in Vancouver
Although most media coverage has focused on the downtown east side in Vancouver, communities all around the province are suffering.
Mobile overdose prevention units, and mobile safe injection sites are badly needed in communities all around the province that have less institutional support for people who are addicted. We need to provide adequate support to suburban, and rural communities because the root causes of the addiction crisis affect every region.