A personal reflection for International Overdose Awareness Day by Riley David, Regional Addictions Specialist, Vancouver Coastal Region, FNHA
I started working for the FNHA in May, 2016, and since then I've had the opportunity to work on the opioid and overdose portfolio with First Nation leaders, urban- and community-based mental health and substance use clinicians, peers, support workers, health directors, physicians, and colleagues in the Vancouver Coastal Region.
I've seen us all work towards the same goal: to prevent people who overdose from dying. In March of 2020, we've all seen how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected people who use drugs – causing an increase in the number of overdose deaths. There are a number of contributing factors, including: recommendations to self-isolate, reduced access to harm reduction services, increased adulteration of the illicit drug supply, and an increase in substance use and mental health in relation to the pandemic.
In response, a number of new and innovative harm reduction interventions have been introduced to mitigate these factors. For instance, the Risk Mitigation Guidelines and Episodic Overdose Prevention Services have been released to guide healthcare providers in maintaining optimal support of people who use drugs while continuing to reduce and prevent the spread of COVID-19. Additionally, [provincial Public Health Officer] Dr. Bonnie Henry has called for immediate provincial action to decriminalize possession.
I think about those whose work continues to support the front lines of this dual public health emergency. Knowing that our work is based on meaningful personal relationships makes it hard to stand by with virtual and telephone services. I've personally never felt more ineffective in my work. However, I know that we are all pulling together and will continue to drive forward new approaches and interventions in response to the overdose crisis.
With no end to either public health emergency in sight, I wanted to write a few words for International Overdose Awareness Day to say I see you and I acknowledge your hard work and dedication.
Learn more at: www.fnha.ca/harmreduction