The City of Vancouver held a forum tonight to talk about resources and solutions to fight the provinces deadly opioid crisis, especially in the Downtown Eastside.
It was a packed town hall, with everyone from top officials to local M-L-A’s, addiction Councillors, and substance users in attendance.
While higher-ups like Mayor Gregor Robertson and Vancouver Coastal Health’s Chief Medical Officer Patricia Daly touted recent announcements of prevention plans and applications for safe consumption sites, it was Vancouver Police Chief Adam Palmer who won over the crowd.
“The one pillar that I want to talk about for minute, that to be honest with you I find quite disappointing in the city and in this province, is treatment,” he said.
“When somebody comes forward in this city or in this province, and they’re looking for treatment to get off drugs – and I’m not suggesting forcing treatment on people – but when somebody is really ready to come off drugs, we don’t have somewhere we can take them.”
Recovery counsellors at the forum also echoed Palmer’s concerns.
Many said while safe consumption sites may help, long term treatment and getting people into long-term treatments plays an integral role in the fight against opioid deaths.
Street level perspective
Out on Vancouver’s streets, the drug users most affected by the crisis weighed in on what’s needed to tackle the crisis.
Cory Daniels, a heroin addict of three years, says there’s one element missing from the conversation.
“Why should we hide it? When we’re more up front about it, and when people are informed about it, they are more accepting,” he said.
Tyler McLeod, a meth addict had similar words.
“I think outreach workers that have been down here have been nice to us. People that don’t know what it’s like get scared and at certain points will back off,” he says.
Both men say more supervised injection sites can’t come soon enough.
Daniels says it’s integral, the government move fast.
“Injection sites on the streets as well as the buildings, I’ll give them props for that. But more is efficient for people not less,” he said.
Both men also say more shelter places are needed with longer hours.