Federal Minister of Mental Health and Addictions Carolyn Bennett at a press conference in Vancouver on July 20, 2022.
Ottawa is providing nearly $40 million to fund 73 projects across the country that aim to reduce the risk of opioid-related overdoses and prevent users from turning to contaminated drugs.
Drug poisoning and the overdose crisis are among the nation's greatest public health challenges in recent history, says federal Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, Carolyn Bennett.
According to the government, every day in 2021, 21 people died, and an average of 17 people were hospitalized in Canada due to the opioid crisis.
It's time to understand that this problem is not limited to the Downtown Eastside [of Vancouver], but that it happens to people from all over the world with different backgrounds. This is everyone's problem, adds the minister.
In British Columbia, part of this budget will be given to the organization PHS Community Services Society, in the Downtown EastSide district, in order to set up an application that will alert emergency responders on behalf of someone at risk of an overdose.
There are still many reasons why many people use illegal drugs from the black market and use them alone, says the organization's executive director, Micheal Vonn.
The organization, which has approximately 200 shelter spaces and 1,500 housing units in Vancouver and Victoria, records nearly 2,000 overdoses annually on its premises. These data are without a shadow of a doubt, lower than reality, assures Micheal Vonn.
A person who wishes to consume alone can thus activate the application and, after a given time, an alarm will be triggered. If the person is unable to turn it off, an alert will be sent to the person in charge of the shelter so that they can be helped.
In the event that those in charge of the shelter are unable to respond to the alert, the emergency services will be contacted immediately and finally a team will be sent to the site.
Our pilot test was successful, and we will be installing this technology in all of our residences and shelters. The evaluation of this program will provide data that could support the deployment of the application on a larger scale, says Micheal Vonn.
A total of 73 projects across the country and in all aspects of the continuum of care will share the nearly $40 million in funding announced by Ottawa.