An application is in to the Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions for an Opiod Action Team in Vernon.
Annette Sharkey with the Social Planning Council submitted the application on behalf of Partners in Action and and the Council’s Harm Reduction Team.
Last year, 20 people died in Vernon from illicit drug use.
“Sixty per cent of those deaths were in neighbourhoods close to the city centre or right in the city centre. But was really interesting was forty per cent were in more suburban areas away from the downtown.”
Over the first three months of this year, 7 deaths have been linked to opiod overdoses.
The goverment is providing up to 100 thousand dollars per Action Team to address the crisis.
Annette says the plan is to continue and expand services geared to the street population.
“That includes really ensuring access to naloxone and supporting any overdose prevention services that might come into our community and any drug testing programs that might be rolled out.”
But also focus on the unseen, those who use alone, usually men and not open about their drug use.
“So we’re going to focus on partnerships with places like gyms, bars, restaurants, pubs sports teams, workplaces. Really maybe some more unusual partnerships to get the word out and really connect those men to programs and resources that could save their lives.”
Annette says the group would connect with what’s happening with the anti-stigma campaign the province is rolling out.
She says there are a lot of resources and social media tools to go along with that.
The application includes 17 letters of support showing a high level of collaboration, including the First Nation community.
“We’ve actually included in the application funding to do a cultural audit. I’ve started to sort of make contact with certain First Nation professionals
who are very interested in that part of the project.”
Sharkey says Vernon is well suited already with the broadbase support that already exists.
The program here would integrate with the homeless and housing strategies to strengthen the community response.
She says they’re ready to hit the ground running when a decision is made, likely in June.