How to Help the Overdose Crisis

As 2016 comes to a close, we reflect on the tragedy that continues to unfold in Canada; the unprecedented numbers of deaths from drug overdoses this year. At CDPC, we are taking a moment with you, our supporters, to acknowledge the devastating impact that this is having on families and communities across the country. We are grieving with those of you who have lost loved ones. And we acknowledge that this tragedy will have a lasting effect on all of us. We want to remember those vital members of our communities who will not see 2017.

As we move into 2017, we encourage you to get involved in your community to help turn this situation around. Because it is hard to know how to help, below are actions we encourage.

Ways to help:

  • Reach out to your local governments and health authorities; demand to see how they are working together with the community on overdose prevention and response plans;
  • Donate time, dollars, materials, and other types of support to your local harm reduction organizations at the street level;
  • Advocate for the immediate access to regulated opioids for people who use drugs – the illegal market is toxic;
  • Advocate for the immediate and robust expansion of opioid assisted treatment programs such as heroin assisted treatment, access to hydromorphone, suboxone and methadone treatment;
  • Write your MP calling for the decriminalization of people who use drugs and the regulation of all illegal drugs to end the illegal market once and for all.

There are many organizations across the country working day and night to end this nightmare. You can help by supporting their efforts. We have listed a few of them below.

Edmonton – Streetworks 

Victoria – Yes to Supervised Consumption Services

Vancouver – Overdose Prevention Society 

Vancouver – PHS Community Services Society

If you wish to support the Canadian Drug Policy Coalition and our efforts to develop new policy options for drugs in Canada you can donate here.

Please support your local harm reduction projects and first responders’ efforts to keep people safe, alive and looking forward to a chance to change in 2017.

We realize that systemic changes need to be made to ensure this never happens again, that our drug policies need to protect us better, but at this moment in 2016, we want to honour those on the front lines fighting to save lives in our communities.

For first responders – we take our hats off to you. Whether you’re a member of an organization of people who use drugs across the country who are on the front lines of harm reduction, a family member devastated by loss but vigorously advocating for changes to our health responses and drug policies, a volunteer in a local harm reduction program or pop-up safe consumption site in a back alley, an overworked para-medic, fire fighter, or police officer on the streets responding to the overwhelming volume of emergency calls, a nurse or doctor attempting to save a life in an emergency ward or one of thousands of people working in front line services across the country struggling to keep up, we thank you for your tireless efforts.

For everyone working to improve Canada’s approach to drugs, we thank you for your work this year. The forward movement that we have seen in 2016 has been overshadowed by the disaster unfolding in many of our communities as people succumb to overdose in unheard of numbers. If we are not working together yet, we invite you to be in touch. We need to come together now more than ever.

Donald MacPherson

About Donald MacPherson

Donald MacPherson is the Executive Director of the Canadian Drug Policy Coalition and one of Canada’s leading figures in drug policy. In 2000 he published Vancouver’s groundbreaking Four Pillars Drug Strategy that precipitated a broad public discussion on issues related to addiction.

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