Working at Our Edge: A Call for Action
Premier Christy Clark
West Annex, Parliament Buildings
Victoria BC V8V 1X4
Dr. Terry Lake, MLA
Minister of Health
Room 337, Parliament Buildings
Victoria BC V8V 1X4
Dr. Evan Wood
Director, BC Centre on Substance Use;
Medical Director for Addiction Services,
Vancouver Coastal Health
608 – 1081 Burrard Street
Vancouver, B.C., Canada V6Z 1Y6
President and Chief Executive Officer
Vancouver Coastal Health
11th Floor, 601 W Broadway,
Vancouver BC, V5Z 4C2
Dr. Patricia Daly
Chief Medical Officer
Vancouver Coastal Health
11th Floor, 601 W Broadway,
Vancouver BC, V5Z 4C2
April 14th 2017
Anniversary of the Declaration of Public Health Emergency
Re: Lives Wont Wait for Crosstown Expansion
I am writing to ask for your support in expanding a much-needed treatment, which could start saving the lives of our friends and loved ones, tomorrow. I implore youto move us towards a society that includes and values all members, offering healthand dignity through care and community.
We are facing an opioid crisis. You must know the numbers; they are staggering. Inour province we lost 922 people to preventable overdose deaths in 2016. In Vancouver we have already lost over 100 in 2017. We need courage and action, andwe need them now. We need to open up options for treatment, recognize the uniqueneeds and vulnerabilities of individuals, and have those in positions of power –
government officials and policymakers – support our initiatives.
We are strongerwhen we band together, when we value and include all members, especially themost vulnerable among us.There is a clinic in our community called Crosstown Clinic, which is working to bring
the people who are most at-risk into a setting of care, safety, dignity and respect. Among the services this clinic provides, is diacetylmorphine- and hydromorphoneassistedtreatment for opioid addiction. Crosstown is not only saving lives, it isgiving those lives a chance to grow and share joy again. The doctors and researchersat this clinic have proven that their program is effective for the people for whom conventional treatments have not worked.
Additionally, the Crosstown program is cost effective; it could be saving more lives,and it could become even more cost effective, with your support. There arehundreds of people waiting to get in, because they see what this program has donefor their friends, and they want those changes – that hope – for themselves. This service is a critical part of the spectrum, and it extends beyond dosages, to include community support, the fostering of self-worth, and meaningful opportunities forwork, stable housing, and access to healthy food. If we are to emerge from this crisisthis program must expand.
The first important steps have been taken: establishing Needle Depots, SupervisedInjection Sites, Overdose Response Sites, extending Narcan Training and increasingaccess to Narcan Kits. Each was pushed for by the communities on the frontlines ofthis crisis; yet for many these steps were taken too slowly. Life doesn’t wait. Weneed to keep taking steps, together, with urgency.
As we wait for the removal of legal barriers from heroin (diacetylmorphine)-
assisted treatment, we should immediately expand access to injectable
hydromorphone-assisted treatment, to which there are no such barriers. Let’s usethe tools we have!
Please open up funding to expand the Crosstown Clinic model of care. Please reachout to those doctors who are also providing low-barrier access to safe prescription
opioids. Please listen to the voices of our community, who are asking you for a chance. You must.
We need you to walk alongside us, in order to turn this crisis around. Our networkin this community is strong; we have doctors, nurses, frontline workers, emergencyresponders, people who use drugs, support workers, mental health and outreachworkers, community advocates, social enterprises, local businesses, educators and students, families and friends all ready to help.
We, the public, are determined to see the lives of our loved ones valued. By expanding treatment options to include the most vulnerable among us, we can keeptaking steps together towards a society of equity, justice, and inclusivity.
We need action now; I implore you to lead, to put people first, to act.
With support from the community of the Downtown Eastside, who are the front line of
this crisis, and are working to give everything they have, even at their own very edges
of survival, to keep their community together.
BUDGET 2017 AND OPIOID CRISIS:
WELCOMED INVESTMENTS, ADEQUATE ACTIONS AWAITED
It is with cautious optimism that we welcome today’s #budget2017 announcement of funding to combat the overdose epidemic. In addition to the $65 million announced in February 2017 and the urgent provincial funding allocated to British-Columbia ($10 million) and Alberta ($6 million), the government announced today that it would invest an additional $35 million over 5 years (for $100 million total), most which will go to Health Canada, the Public Health Agency of Canada, and the Canadian Institute for Health Research.
Between six and seven Canadians die of drug overdose every day. We’re in the midst of the worst overdose epidemic in Canadian history. We cannot stress enough that funding needs to be appropriately allocated to prevent overdoses and overdose deaths. Based on the budget alone, it is unclear how these funds will support policy that has a real impact on expanding harm reduction services across Canada and in its prisons, providing access to treatment including opiate assisted therapy, and addressing the root causes of the opioid crisis and the criminalization of people who use drugs.
Funding allocated to Health Canada should include support for drug-user led organizations. “We are dying at alarming rates, and it is paramount that we have support to advocate for ourselves, our health and our human rights.”, said Jordan Westfall, president of CAPUD. Additionally, Health Canada’s previously announced funding for prescription drug monitoring needs to include additional funding to reduce the “negative externalities” or “unintended consequences” of opioid drug restrictions, which have been shown to increase drug overdose deaths.
Funding allocated to research should serve the interests and needs of people who use drugs first and foremost. It should also help improve services and programs. “We don’t need more research on effective responses, the research is already there, we need to act now”, said Westfall. “We need to use the extensive research we already have in Canada to save lives and improve health” he said.
Funding allocated to the Public Health Agency of Canada should help directly support frontline workers, community-based organizations, peers and groups of people who use drugs. “ We lost trust in the Public Health Agency of Canada when they refused to fund any harm reduction organisation targeting injection drug users during the last appeal for the HIV and Hepatitis C Community Action Fund, which are the people most at risk of dying during this epidemic”, Westfall added.
Government funding needs to tackle the main driver of this crisis and the harms associated with drug use: drug prohibition and criminalization. We need a pragmatic approach that can put an end to this crisis. This starts by support real efforts to put an end to drug prohibition and criminalization.
Statement on Health Canada occupation
Yesterday, people who use drugs assembled across Canada in eight cities. We showed Canada that we aren’t afraid. No matter how many people we lose, no matter how much pain the system throws at us, we are resilient. Let’s be proud of ourselves.
We garnered widespread media coverage across Canada. But there’s much more work to be done. Our federal demands are crucial to our lives, and our ultimate decriminalization.
Yesterday members of CAPUD, Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users, Western Aboriginal Harm Reduction Network, BC Association of People on Methadone, and the Crosstown Patients Union occupied Health Canada’s Vancouver office, located at the Sinclair Centre in downtown Vancouver. This occupation was used a means to reiterate the federal demands for policy change that we delivered directly to Health Canada. An end to the war on drugs, immediate exemption for all proposed supervised consumption sites across Canada, implementation of methadone maintenance and harm reduction services in federal Canadian prisons, and removal of all barriers to heroin-assisted treatment, so the drug can be produced within Canada. Additionally, we want and need Health Canada’s support to fund user-led organizations so we can advocate for ourselves.
As of now, we have received no response from Health Canada regarding our demands for policy change. We cannot give up this fight, this is only the beginning of something bigger. Remember that nobody else should have the right to change policy without our consent. Earlier yesterday, in response to our national protest, Health Minister Philpott stated publicly that she is “working every day” on ending the overdose epidemic.
But Health Canada’s efforts are focused on restricting access to safer, regulated drugs through the implementation of prescription drug monitoring programs. Federal policy changes have restricted the supply of regulated, safe opioid drugs. People are being cut off from their prescription opioids and turning to bootleg fentanyl, and overdosing and dying. Minister Philpott’s efforts are misguided in the midst of an epidemic of people dying from bootleg fentanyl.
Stills below taken from footage shot by Dominik Marciniec
Overdose Day of Action - Press Release
Our lives won’t wait.
That’s why on February 21st people who use drugs in seven Canadian cities will be participating in demonstrations and marches to change Canadian drug policy for the better.
The policy making process serves us very poorly, and lacks any meaningful inclusion of people who use drugs – and this policy is killing us. We’re intentionally excluded from decisions that nobody should have the power to make on our behalf. Policy is written from above and changed without our consent.
We are mobilizing to publicly dispute that our government has this epidemic under control. While people died in increasing numbers, our government could not look us in the eye and our federal Health Minister refused our request to meet with a panel comprised entirely of people who use drugs.
Most importantly, we’re disrupting a narrative about ourselves. There’s a common public misconception that we are unable to make decisions for ourselves. Truth being we are excluded from even participating in policy decisions that determine our fates. Take the federal government’s national meeting on opioid use, or British Columbia’s Overdose Taskforce, both of which have excluded people who use drugs. While they talk about fixing policy, we are the ones dying.
When people who use drugs are excluded by our government, the closer we get to each other to cope with this horrific loss of life. The closer we become, the more we understand how this exclusion happens across Canada, practiced by all levels of government.
Our lives won’t wait for injectable opioid-assisted treatment. Health Canada could saves the lives of innumerable people if they provided diacetylmorphine (heroin) with a Drug Identification Number (DIN) and began its mass production within Canada. With people unable to access safe, regulated opioids they turn to use unpredictable street drugs and become criminalized for buying them.
To not provide safe injectable opioids is to prolong the trauma that made 2016 the worst year in Canadian record keeping for overdose deaths. New opioid-substitution therapy guidelines published by the BC Centre on Substance Use (BCCSU) should be revised to include protocols for the provision of injectable opioid-assisted treatments. The exclusion of injectable opioid guidelines is a rebuke of proven empirical evidence that suggests injectable heroin and hydromorphone patients rarely overdose at all, and never fatally.
We are coming together to call for immediate federal exemptions for all proposed and planned supervised consumption sites across Canada. As British Columbia copes with the overdose deaths of 914 people in 2016, our government must know that their lives will not be forgotten. These deaths were entirely preventable and federal legislation like the The Respect for Communities Act stood between these victims and lifesaving services.
It’s not just legislation either. Federal institutions like the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse (CCSA) have left Canadian public health institutions defenseless to combat this overdose epidemic. CCSA is responsible for drug and alcohol health promotion and was even deemed by its own stakeholders to be “not on the cutting edge of public policy” in a Public Health Agency of Canada evaluation. In the midst of an overdose epidemic killing between 6 and 7 Canadians every day, government funded agencies that cannot respond to the new reality of this overdose epidemic need largescale reform. Health Canada should provide explicit funding to organizations comprised of people who use drugs and develop a dedicated harm reduction fund to help municipalities to combat this epidemic as a more responsive alternative.
Other federal institutions have failed us as well. Exiting prison should never be a death sentence. However, newly released inmates have a heightened risk of overdose death and one Ontario study found that one in twelve overdose victims in the province was recently exiting a correctional institution. People leaving prison should be equipped with naloxone, harm reduction resources, and have continued access to methadone maintenance therapies while they transition away from an institutional environment.
Entering a Canadian prison shouldn’t mean contracting HIV either, and that’s why our federal government’s refusal to scale up harm reduction services within Canadian prisons is so damaging. Without access to clean needles and harm reduction supplies, HIV contraction rates increase in Canadian prisons. Our prisons cannot wait for harm reduction services.
Most crucially, our lives will not wait for drug decriminalization and an end to the war on drugs. Our government refuses to recognize that decriminalization of drug possession and the provision of safe, regulated drugs could end this epidemic. For over a century the criminalization of people who use drugs has created the conditions necessary for overdose epidemics to continue unabated. We call on our federal government to decriminalize drug possession charges in the short term and legalize and regulate them in the long term.
Our lives will not wait – our lives cannot wait. On February 21, drug users across Canada – people as ordinary and diverse as everyone else, yet as stigmatized and criminalized as no others – will come together for the first time to demand the changes we need to build a more healthy and just society. Our voices will be loud; the solutions we propose are bold. Listen.
These actions are being organized by people who use drugs, drug user groups/unions, harm reduction workers and allies. These voices have been excluded from the overdose response.
For more information or to start an action in your city contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Canada is in the midst of the worst overdose crisis in its history. Rather than take meaningful actions to prevent needless deaths and further harms to people who use drugs, the government has instead pushed forward with its war on drugs and harmful policies. It’s time to demand better. On February 21 2017, a first national day of action will be held across Canada to demand concrete actions to put an end to the war on drugs, remove barriers to health care, and implement policies that are informed by real life experiences of people who use drugs and providers. Stay tuned for more information.
Vancouver’s national day of action event will begin at noon 12 pm in Oppenheimer Park on February 21st.
Ces actions sont organisées par des personnes qui utilisent des drogues, des groupes/syndicats de personnes qui utilisent des drogues, des travailleurs en réduction des méfaits et des alliés. Ces voix sont souvent exclues de la réponse aux surdoses.
Pour plus d’information ou pour commencer une action dans votre ville, contactez email@example.com
La Canada fait face à la pire crise de surdoses de son histoire. Plutôt que de prendre des mesures significatives pour prévenir des morts inutiles et d’autres méfaits aux personnes utilisant des drogues, le gouvernement est plutôt allé de l’avant avec sa guerre contre les drogues et ses politiques néfastes. Il est temps de faire mieux. Le 21 février 2017, une première journée d’action aura lieu à travers le Canada pour demander des actions concrètes pour mettre fin à la guerre contre les drogues, éliminer les barrières aux soins de santé, et mettre en place des politiques qui correspondent aux expériences vécues des personnes qui utilisent des drogues et des gens sur le terrain. Restez à l’écoute pour plus d’information.
October 15th, 2 PM, at VANDU there will be a community meeting on the drug war violence in the Philippines.
A community dialogue and public meeting on extrajudicial killings of people who use drugs in the Philippines:
No to extrajudicial killings of people who use drugs **
No to U.S. military excercises, bases, and intervention **
Yes to peace talks and a just and and lasting peace in the Philippines!
Join the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users, Canada-Philippines Solidarity for Human Rights, and Migrante BC to talk about how we can respond to over 3,000 extrajudicial killings of people who use drugs in the last 3 months, and how we can support the struggles of oppressed and exploited people for a just and lasting peace in the Philippines.
Supported by: Canadian Association of People who Use Drugs (CAPUD); International League of Peoples Struggle in Canada
August 31st is International Overdose Awareness day.
There are events led by persons who use drugs across Canada.
Action de sensibilisation des surdose – Mercredi 31 août dès 17h au parc Émilie-Gamelin
Le 31 août est la journée internationale de sensibilisation aux overdoses. Les membres de l’ADDICQ aimeraient inviter toutes celles et tous ceux qui portent le deuil de quelqu’un suite à la consommation de drogues, que ce soit un parent, un enfant, une soeur, un frère, une amie, un conjoint, une collègue, une personne significative, à un moment de commémoration et de réflexion.
Un grand nombre de morts et de séquelles permanentes auraient pu être évitées. Comment se fait-il qu’autant de nos concitoyens meurent alors que des solutions existent?
Nous souhaitons nous recueillir et insuffler autant que possible un sens à notre douleur et à donner de la visibilité à ces personnes qui meurent dans l’anonymat. Ce sont aussi les proches qui écopent de politiques dépassées sur les drogues.
Nous nous donnons rendez-vous le mercredi 31 août 2016, au métro Berri, coin Berri et Sainte-Catherine, à 17h.
Merci de faire circuler l’information largement et de mobiliser les personnes qui fréquentent vos ressources!
Si vous souhaitez participer à la réalisation de la déco pour l’évènement, un atelier aura lieu le 18 août, de 15 H à 17 H au local de l’AQPSUD, au 1555 boulevard René-Lévesque Est.
Si vous souhaitez prendre la parole de manière collective ou individuelle, vous pouvez nous joindre afin que l’on s’assure de vous réserver un temps de parole lors de l’évènement.
Overdose awareness action, Wednesday august 31 at 5pm, Emilie-Gamelin parc
August 31 is International Overdose Awareness Day. Members ADDICQ would like to invite all those and all those who mourn someone, whether a parent, a child, a sister, a brother, a friend, a spouse, a colleague, a significant person in a moment of remembrance and reflection.
A large number of deaths and permanent damage could have been avoided. How is it that so many of our fellow citizens die while solutions exist?
We wish we collect and inject as much as possible meaning to our pain and give visibility to those who die in anonymity. These are also the relatives who got sentenced to outdated policies on drugs. We give appointment Wednesday, August 31, 2016, at Emilie-Gamelin parc, corner Berri and St. Catherine, at 5 pm. Thank you to circulate the information widely and to mobilize the people attending your resources!
If you want to participate in the realization of the decor for the event, a workshop will be held on August 18, between 3pm and 5 pm in the local AQPSUD at 1555 boulevard René-Lévesque. If you wish to speak collectively or individually, please contact us so that we make sure to book a time to speak at the event.
Wednesday August 31st, 12 PM to 2 PM
BC is facing ‘record’ number of overdoses this year and while politicians claim concern, they are failing to implement straight forward policies that could save lives. Join us for a solemn march to remember the friends, family and community members we’ve lost to overdose and to demand:
— Scrap Bill C-2 the so-called ‘Respect for Communities’ act
— Open supervised consumption sites across the Province
— Expand treatment options including Heroine Assisted Treatment (HAT) and Stimulant Maintenance Programs
— End the criminalization and police targeting of people who use illicit drugs
Meet at Main & Hastings >>> Wear Black
August 31st candle light vigil at 7:30pm at centennial square
We will have food and candles
Toronto OD Awareness Day Events August 31. Press conference at City Hall @10.00 am and South Riverdale BBQ from 1.00 to 3.00.