Chilliwack is getting a Community Action Team to tackle the opioid overdose crisis.
Mental Health and Addictions Minister Judy Darcy was in Abbotsford Thursday morning to announce the 18 B.C. communities sharing a $1.5 million pool of funding for boots-on-the-ground action teams.
Coun. Ken Popove, who co-chairs the multi-stakeholder Chilliwack Healthier Community (CHC), said it was “awesome” to hear Chilliwack made it on the list, which provides one-time funding of $100,000.
“Urgent need” was the driving factor to decide which cities would get an action team, and the CHC is an existing working group in Chilliwack that has been working collaboratively on addictions and homelessness for years.
Chilliwack ranked 12th in B.C. for drug overdose deaths in 2017 with a total of 24 deaths. By comparison, Abbotsford had 49, while Richmond had 24 fatalities last year.
“Getting a dedicated team here is something that is 100 per cent needed, and I will be happy to work with any and all agencies to implement this,” he said.
For the past few years, Chilliwack council has taken the brunt of community anger over the impacts of increased homelessness, crime, substance use, overdoses and needles in the streets.
Those communities with the most urgent need in terms of overdoses and community impacts, as well as having already initiated some form of coordinated community response, such as Chilliwack and Abbotsford, are the criteria for being on the list to receive CAT grants.
Minister Darcy referred to the BC Coroners report on 2017 overdose fatalities released Wednesday that revealed the crisis is killing four people per day in B.C.
“The numbers are staggering but the human impact is unspeakable,” she said. “We must do more.”
Chilliwack’s total of 24 OD deaths was double the number reported from the year before. As a result Chilliwack made it to number 12 of 15 in the “Top Townships of Injury” according to the BC Coroners report, ‘Illicit Overdose Deaths in BC,’ which is part of the rationale for Chilliwack being funded for a CAT.
“This escalated emergency response is about using the latest overdose data, which will be updated on a regular basis, to tell us who is at risk and where to deliver life-saving supports on the ground before it’s too late,” said Dr. Patricia Daly, Overdose Emergency Response Centre lead.
“This comprehensive community-level response will also allow us to learn more quickly about what’s working and share best practices throughout the province to save more lives.”
Each CAT will focus on four goals:
• Expand community-based harm-reduction;
• Increase availability of naloxone;
• Address unsafe drug supply with expanded services and more treatment meds.
• Supporting people at risk of OD by intervening early with treatment and housing.
Communities establishing CATs: Vancouver, Chilliwack, Richmond, Powell River, Surrey, Langley, Abbotsford, Maple Ridge, Victoria, Campbell River, Nanaimo, Duncan, Port Alberni, Kelowna, Kamloops, Vernon, Prince George, and Fort St. John.