B.C. communities will soon be able to apply for grants up to $50,000 to support local solutions to the overdose crisis.
Speaking at the BC Municipalities convention on Sept. 23 in Vancouver, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions Judy Darcy announced up to $3.5 million will be available to support community initiatives responding to fentanyl poisoning across the province, “one of the greatest challenges the province has ever faced.”
“Last year at UBCM I heard loud and clear from local governments that they need new tools and new funding,” Darcy said. “We listened.”
The Community Wellness and Harm Reduction Grant program is being administered by the Community Action Initiative. Examples of eligible projects include safe needle collection, anti-stigma campaigns, and peer support and harm reduction programs led by municipalities in partnership with a regional health authority.
The grant application will be online shortly, Darcy said, and will close on Nov. 1.
In addition to the grant funding, the ministry is expanding the network of community action teams across the province. The teams work to escalate local, integrated planning and strategies in response to the overdose crisis.
Nineteen teams are in their second year of operation and 16 new teams are being added to the network. The new teams will be established in Hope, Tri-Cities, Mission, South Surrey and White Rock, Penticton, Grand Forks, Nelson and Castlegar, West Kelowna, Williams Lake, Oceanside, Comox Valley, Quesnel, Dawson Creek, Terrace, Sunshine Coast, and the Sea to Sky Corridor (Squamish, Whistler and Pemberton).
Up to $150,000 in funding will be available to each of the 35 teams.
Abbotsford Mayor Henry Braun said the collaborative model of community action teams has been successful in his community.
Braun said Project Angel, a peer support intervention program involving Abbotsford police, local service providers and Fraser Health, has provided support to close to 300 people.
“Over the past few years, Abbotsford has put many local programs in place to address the specific needs of vulnerable people in our community, including implementing a community action team, an inter-agency care team and a community wellness hub,” he said.
“We are thrilled that the province is continuing to support municipalities and program development at the local level to support health and wellness in our communities.”
The facilitator of the community action team in Kelowna also shared a success story.
Erin Welk, who founded anti-stigma enterprise People Employment Services earlier this year, said their team has already recruited 30 individuals with lived experience in drug use and homelessness to complete a series of learning modules, and accept paid work contracts throughout the community.
According to the BC Coroners Service, roughly 1,500 people died of illicit drug overdoses in 2018.
In the first six months of this year there were 538 illicit drug toxicity deaths, a decrease of approximately 30 per cent over the same period in 2018 when 763 were reported.
Darcy said those deaths are avoidable and her ministry “will not rest” until they “bring that death toll down.”
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