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Vancouver starts spending additional tax money it collected to tackle drug-overdose crisis

January 19th, 2017 · 13 Comments

The first round of spending to tackle the drug-overdose crisis adds up to $2 million, mainly to staff an additional medic unit, to create a new community policing station for Strathcona, and to train more city staff in Naloxone use.

The next $1.5 million available is still unallocated, although staff are looking at things like creating supervised drug-consumption sites in some of the Downtown Eastside residential hotels, where most of the overdoses and deaths are occurring. (More on this from social-policy director Mary Clare Zak in my story today.)

The city report will be debated next Tuesday or Wednesday (the latter, if there are speakers from the public who want to address the issue). I’m wondering if the tone will be any different, after the news yesterday that the death count from overdoses reached 914 last year.

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  • Norman12

    When did public opinion tip over to accept normalization of drug use?

  • Lysenko’s Nemesis

    Public opinion never did. This is a city promotion.

    The city is not at all interested in what recovered dependents always say; ie. get away from the bad influences if you want to clean yourself up.

    The city wants to enable and concentrate the drug takers in the east side, then gradually expand the area. As happened in the social housing around the Olympic Village and will be happening in the Flats between Terminal and 2nd.

  • Chris Keam

    Use for pleasure or pain?

  • Norman12

    Oh, I think you know what I mean.

  • Kenji

    Maybe westsiders have the resources to handle their own od’s?

    As for enabling, I doubt anyone wants to create more junkies. I was a social worker and I had no dreams of perpetuating more business for myself. I would have loved to have been in a redundant industry.

    Maybe the city takes the view that junkies are people and we should make an effort to avoid having them die in the street.

    Obviously, getting out of the life has to happen at some point, but in the meantime, does the city just shrug and say so sad, too bad?

  • Chris Keam

    No Norman I don’t. Define ‘drug use’ as you see it,

  • Kirk

    I’ve been a believer in harm reduction, but it’s hard to keep the faith.

    For decades, we spent tons of money on the “War on Drugs”. And, it proved unwinnable. Now, we have decriminalization and harm reduction. And, from the current state of the DTES, I wonder if it’s gotten even worse. We’re spending so much money down there, and it doesn’t feel like it’s getting any better. Yes, there are lives being saved, but is this the success we’ve been envisioning? And, now, we have a drug user tax. What other city in the world has that? And, they think it will be temporary? As though they won’t need the money next year? Seriously?

    It’s heartbreaking going down there, which I do a few times a week. It depresses me to wonder if it’s completely unsolvable.

  • Kenji

    Not a snark question: what would “solving” mean for you?

    I can only think of two completely solved outcomes:

    1. That addicts are all steered into universally effective treatment and emerge as productive citizen-consumers; or,

    2. That parenting and genetic intervention result in a happy well adjusted populace that does not seek consciousness-obliteration?

    We are left with partial measures elsewise and yet, a sizeable range of options from do nothing to total intervention via the Mental Health Act present themselves.

  • Kirk

    No worries. No offensive snark taken.

    I dunno. I just would hope that the rates of use slowed down or something. It seems like it’s even worse now. And, the living conditions are worse too. I’m not one one measure things based on money. But, maybe that’s part of the problem, there’s no metrics or goals other than, “If even just one single life is saved, all the money is worth it….” Well, maybe ten lives could’ve been saved with the same amount of money and a different strategy.

    Anyway, I’m ignorant (unintentionally) about what’s going on in the DTES. But, as a weekly observer, it doesn’t look like what’s happening now is “better”.

  • Keith

    Kirk, there is an argument that closing down Riverview and releasing the patients into the community has exacerbated the drug problem. The facility closed, to be replaced as I recall by “community support services.”
    Those support services of housing, counsellors etc. have clearly been grossly inadequate. Do we go back to warehousing the mentally ill, and try to do it humanely and better, or put in community support services that work, and pay the taxes to fund it?

  • Chris Keam

    From a previous Bulablog post link:

    Another interesting perspective can be found in the book ‘Woodsman of the West’ available at the VPL, and its accounts of Skid Row way back when… plus ca change as they say

  • Lysenko’s Nemesis

    Every ex-drugs user, that one ever listens to, clearly states that for destructive activity to stop, the user has to get away, far away from the availability of easy to score drugs and social influences that make it so easy to just keep on getting high.

    The recent experiment, that has been going on for quite a few years, is to give all the supplies to drug takers they need and all the conveniently located social services, in that one downtown east side area. Now it has been enlarged to include police and firemen in becoming social workers that hold their hand, or revive them, to help them back on their feet so they can go around the next corner, score and do it all over again.

    It is not going to be successful. I’ll accept that the war on drugs has not been successful either but you don’t take a recovering gambler to Las Vegas and hope that they just watch the action.

    It is a sad joke that the City of Vancouver is spending millions of dollars on a suicide barrier that will partially obscure and mess up the view from the Burrard Bridge for millions of people, to save, or cause a diversion to the Granville Bridge, for around one life of one jumper per year. While at the same time enabling drugs takers to overdose and bounce back and repeat their same mistakes ad infinitum, while at the same time complaining to the provincial government that they are not building enough social housing. They use these poor people as pawns for political purposes.

  • Norman12