Call centre reports more than 800 per cent increase in fentanyl related calls
Staff took 33 calls related to fentanyl last year. This year they've received more than 300
Staff at a Vancouver non-profit call centre that offers support to those dealing with addiction say they received a more than 800 per cent increase in fentanyl-related calls in 2016.
Bc211 refers people in need of harm reduction resources to government and community social services.
Last year, manager Louise Ghoussoub says staff took 318 calls involving fentanyl, a huge jump from 2015 when they received just 33.
"This is an extremely tough issue for staff," said Ghoussoub. "In relation to where we're situated, our office is just on the edge of the downtown eastside, we are well aware of the number of ambulances that stream past us everyday."
"We don't give advice, we're not counsellors," she said. "But we do an assessment of where our callers are at, and then we let them know what their options are."
Ghoussoub added the recent cold weather in Vancouver, coupled with the overdose crisis, created a very difficult winter season.
Typically, between six and eight staff members operate six help lines that are kept open around the clock 365 days a year, including the Youth Against Violence Line, the Shelter and Street Help Line and VictimLink B.C.
Many of the fentanyl related calls are from people wanting to know places where naloxone is available and some staff at the centre have been trained to administer the antidote.
"In the event that something did happen I would hope our staff could be as best prepared as possible," says Ghoussoub.
<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/fentanyl?src=hash">#fentanyl</a>-related calls to 211 and our alcohol & drug I&R helpline <a href="https://t.co/UJHMbmpQRS">https://t.co/UJHMbmpQRS</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/fentanylcrisis?src=hash">#fentanylcrisis</a>—@bc211Help
As the fentanyl crisis continues, bc211 says their priority is updating their database to include all locations where naloxone is available for free, and all overdose prevention sites in the province.