Frontline workers dealing with opioid crisis face unprecedented burnout

A new report from Central City Foundation (CCF) says staff and volunteers with front-line community organizations are facing unprecedented levels of trauma, stress and burnout as they deal with Vancouver's ongoing opioid crisis

'We're concerned about the long-term impacts'

Community front-line workers are often on scene before first responders. (Chris Corday/CBC)

A new report from Central City Foundation (CCF) says staff and volunteers with front-line community organizations are facing unprecedented levels of trauma, stress and burnout as they deal with Vancouver's ongoing opioid crisis.

"The (overdose) statistics that we hear are horrifying, but what we don't hear about is the people that that impacts," said CCF's CEO Jennifer Johnstone. "In dealing with this every day, there's a tremendous, traumatic effect on the workers in these organizations."

Front-line workers are usually the first responders on scene, administering Naloxone and trying to revive people in an overdose situations — until emergency services arrive.

They also work closely with clients who are grieving the overwhelming loss of life in their community.

'Burnout is rampant'

"This is already a sector for which burnout is rampant and high. It's already a very stressful job. The overdoses are adding a whole other element that we have never seen before," said Mebrat Beyene, with the Wish Drop In Society.

The CCF report is the result of several months of interviews with 29 community partners and 21 non-profit organizations that serve the Downtown Eastside and the inner city's most vulnerable people.

Over 71 per cent of the organizations said the opioid crisis was having a direct impact on their staff and their work with people in the community.

Last month the BC Coroners Service said more than 1,100 British Columbians died due to a suspected illicit drug overdose in the first nine months of the year.

Concern over long-term impacts

Johnstone said CCF is concerned about the long-term impacts on those who are working within the organizations —whose resources were already stretched even before this crisis hit.

The report underscores the need for counselling and training for front-line workers, and further investment in prevention and treatment. Johnstone wants the report to spark action from government, non-profits and donors.

"We must direct assets and resources to these front-line organizations, and bring more attention to the people who have been so very impacted by this crisis, she said. "

The report also calls on government to make ongoing funding more accessible and explains that "very little of all the government funding is being directed to the non-profit organizations for their staff, volunteers, and leadership to deal with the effects the opioid crisis is having on them."