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

Windsurfers enjoying a windstorm on Skaha Lake in Penticton on March 28, 2021. (Sandy Steck Photography)
Wind warning issued for Okanagan Valley

Boaters are being warned of gusts up to 70 km/h by late afternoon on Sunday

Vernon Vipers forward Ryan Shostak (centre) fends off a check from Salmon Arm defenceman to get a close-in scoring attempt on Silverbacks goalie Owen Say during Vernon’s 3-2 B.C. Hockey League pod play shootout victory Saturday, April 17, at Kal Tire Place. (Lisa Mazurek - Vernon Vipers photography)
Vernon Vipers use shootout to subdue Salmon Arm

Snakes score 3-2 B.C. Hockey League pod play win at Kal Tire Place

Coldstream Fire Department crews stationed at Kal Lake Provincial Park parking lot on Cosens Bay Road on Sunday, April 18, after a car went over a cliff in the area. (Roger Knox - Morning Star)
Driver escapes after car goes over cliff in Coldstream near Kal Lake Park

The driver has been transported to hospital with unspecified injuries

A GoFundMe page has been launched for a Vernon man whose BX orchard property home off Pleasant Valley Road near Stickle Road was totally destroyed in a fire Saturday, April 17. (Brendan Shykora - Morning Star)
Fundraising campaign launched for Vernon man who lost home to fire

A GoFundMe page has been started by family; man taken to hospital with injuries from fire

Each spring, the Okanagan Fest-of-Ale is held in Penticton. This year, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the festival will not be held. However, beer is still available. How much do you know about this beverage? (pxfuel.com)
QUIZ: How much do you really know about beer?

Put your knowledge to the test with this short quiz

Vancouver resident Beryl Pye was witness to a “concerning,” spontaneous dance party that spread throughout social groups at Kitsilano Beach on April 16. (Screen grab/Beryl Pye)
VIDEO: Dance party erupts at Vancouver’s Kitsilano Beach to the dismay of onlookers

‘It was a complete disregard for current COVID-19 public health orders,’ says Vancouver resident Beryl Pye

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland responds to a question during Question Period in the House of Commons Tuesday December 8, 2020 in Ottawa. The stage is set for arguably the most important federal budget in recent memory, as the Liberal government prepares to unveil its plan for Canada’s post-pandemic recovery even as a third wave of COVID-19 rages across the country. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Election reticence expected to temper political battle over federal budget

Opposition parties have laid out their own demands in the weeks leading up to the budget

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

A Kelowna Pride Festival 2019 participant holds up a flag. (Kelowna Pride Society)
Kelowna Pride, RCMP continue to work on ‘Safe Place Program’

A new committee has been formed to refine the ‘Safe Place Program’ created by the Kelowna RCMP

A strange odour at a West Kelowna apartment building prompted the evacuation of 150 residents on Sunday morning, April 18. (Aaron Hemens - Capital News)
Strange smell at West Kelowna apartment prompts evacuation of 150 residents, pets

150 residents ordered evacuated from a West Kelowna apartment building early Sunday morning

This is what’s left of a truck that caught fire at Pyramid Provincial Park off Highway 97 near Summerland Saturday night. (Monique Tamminga Western News)
Photo Gallery: Truck gutted by fire at popular Okanagan park, trees saved

Just a metal shell of what once was a pick up truck is left at the scene

A syringe is loaded with COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. to open up COVID vaccine registration to all B.C. residents 18+ in April

Registration does not equate to being able to book an appointment

Most Read