British Columbia

Vancouver spent over $100k fighting opioid crisis in 2 months last year

The city has released a report detailing how much it spent fighting the opioid crisis in the last two months of 2016.

City report outlines 'extraordinary' spending for November and December, has since hiked property tax

First responders surround an overdose victim on Vancouver's Downtown Eastside in November 2016. (Gian Paolo Mendoza/CBC)

The City of Vancouver has released a report detailing how much it spent fighting the opioid crisis in the last two months of 2016.

The summary, submitted to council by city manager Sadhu Johnston, is an overview of "extraordinary" spending incurred by boosting emergency and health services, as well as organizing education forums and naloxone training events.

In total, the city spent $107,000 to combat the crisis in November and December.

Firefighters try to revive a man who has already had two doses of naloxone after overdosing on fentanyl in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside in December. (CBC)

Provincially, B.C. saw a record-breaking 914 overdose deaths in 2016. Just over 23 per cent of those deaths happened in Vancouver.

The city's report named the Downtown Eastside (DTES) as the epicentre of the crisis, but notes that money has been allocated to other neighbourhoods.

Mobile medical units and staffing: $98,000

In early December, a Mobile Medical Unit (MMU) was moved to the Downtown Eastside to act as a "satellite emergency department" for first responders.

Paramedics could take overdose patients to the unit at 58 W Hastings Steet, rather than transporting them to St. Paul's Hospital.

In its first 30 days, the MMU saw 613 patients — although only 43 per cent "had overdose presentations," Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) told CBC News.

The inside of a Mobile Medical Unit (MMU) set up at 58 W Hastings St. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

Preparing the downtown site for the incoming unit cost the city $55,000, Johnston wrote. 

VCH, which deployed the unit with the Provincial Health Services Authority, has said it will reimburse the city.

Vancouver spent another $43,000 to boost Vancouver Fire and Rescue Service (VFRS) staffing at medical units on the DTES in December.

Naloxone training and forum with mayor: $9,000

In November, the city hosted a one-day naloxone training event. About 300 people living in the DTES participated, and many left with a naloxone kit to keep.

The city report noted that volunteer contributions to that event were "significant."

On Dec. 8, the city hosted a public forum to discuss the opioid crisis. Nearly 200 people attended, including Mayor Gregor Robertson. 

Both events were "the result of needs identified from DTES community members" and volunteers, Johnston said..

Recommendations for 2017

The report recommended several initiatives for the city to invest in this year as the crisis continues. The measures would run the city just over $2 million.

  1. Continue to boost VFRS staffing in the DTES: Ongoing cost of $1.9 million, subject to demand.
  2. Create a new Community Policing Centre (CPC) in Strathcona: One-time cost of $100,000.
  3. Boost funding for exisiting CPCs: Ongoing cost of $108,200.
  4. Provide further naloxone, mental health and additiction training for city and parks staff: One-time cost of $10,000.

The funding for the initiatives would come from the city's $3.5 million contingency fund, according to the report.

In December, Vancouver city council approved a 0.5 per cent increase in property taxes to supplement that fund.

With files from CBC's Stephanie Mercier