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“There’s a real lack of skill providers out there and we don’t have a functioning addiction treatment system in B.C.,” she said.
Karen Ward, drug policy adviser for the City of Vancouver, said overdoses and deaths in the city’s Downtown Eastside skyrocketed when COVID-19 measures came into effect mid-March and shut down services and facilities in the neighbourhood.
“That was a lot, all at once, in a very short period of time,” she said. “April … it’s bad but compared to March it’s actually not as bad as I feared.”
Ward said she was heartened, however, to see the coroners report that average daily drug deaths had fallen during income assistance week in April to 3.9 deaths per day, after spiking to 6.6 deaths per day in March. It was the first time she could recall cheque week being less deadly than the rest of the month.
She believes $300 in provincial emergency aid for people on income and disability assistance, along with new banking measures implemented by Pigeon Park Savings and Vancity, played a role in saving lives.
“That (April) was the first time we got our $300 emergency supplements,” she said.
“It’s about poverty. So many of deaths during cheque week are about the fact that the government dumps a huge pile of money in a very small space, on some very desperate people.”