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BC Nurses’ Union Calls for More Treatment Options as Province-wide Opioid Overdose Deaths Soar

  • News Release
Front-line workers demand government provide more treatment programs as crisis shows no signs of slowing down

Sara Bates has worked as an outreach nurse in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside for 11 years and says it's been extremely difficult to watch as the opioid crisis takes a critical toll on the community she calls her office.

"As an outreach nurse working through this crisis, I sometimes ask myself before a shift if someone is going to die today," she says. "We've seen it have a serious impact on the community. I see ambulances and firetrucks going by almost hourly. The problem is definitely getting worse and that's really, really stressful."

BC Nurses' Union Vice President Christine Sorensen says the government needs to take action and focus on providing treatment programs and harm reduction strategies that have been proven to save lives.

"We are asking that they make a plan and focus on an immediate response," she says. "We know they want to develop a framework based on treatment-on-demand, drug substitution, early warning monitoring and coordinated response. As a nurse and someone who talks to nurses every day, I can tell you these goals sound promising but we need action now. We need to make sure the next coroner's report doesn't surpass the last."

BCNU applauds the opening of Vancouver's third supervised injection site on Powell Street and will be working with the nurses and health care staff there to ensure they are taken care of.

"We will be there for these front-line workers as they continue to manage this difficult reality, day by day."

Len Vaness is a nurse at the supervised injection facility, Insite, and says it's been hard to watch as the number of overdose deaths across the province climbs.

"It's crazy. Why is it taking so long to deal with this?" he asks. "If five planes crashed in BC over the course of a year, people would be crying bloody murder and there would be inquests."

The BCNU has been a long-time advocate for harm reduction and treatment programs and fundamentally believes that lives can be saved by providing support for people coping with the effects of substance abuse, and sharing knowledge and resources.

For more information, or to set up an interview, please contact Katharine Kitts at 604 220 9815 or kkitts@bcnu.org.

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