Photo: (left to right) Chris Dickinson and Captain Jonathan Gormick
Joint Vancouver Fire Rescue Services and Vancouver Coastal Health team helps connect overdose patients with treatment, education, and supports to save lives.
Vancouver, BC; September 6, 2019 – Today Mayor Kennedy Stewart joined Vancouver Fire Rescue Services (VFRS) Captain Jonathan Gormick and Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Patricia Daly, and VCH Outreach Worker Chris Dickinson to announce hopeful early results from an innovative pilot program that sees Vancouver firefighters and VCH health care staff follow up with overdose patients to connect them to treatment and support services.
“I’m so grateful to everyone involved with this life-saving project for their tireless work to connect people to the services they need at such crucial point in their lives,” said Judy Darcy, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions. “This program is a shining example of a compassionate and coordinated system at work.”
“My first act as Mayor was to launch an emergency overdose taskforce and one of the key recommendations from its findings was to use innovative models to break the cycle of repeated overdoses,” said Mayor Stewart. “When a poisoned drug supply traps people in overdose after overdose, they not only lose hope but so do our first responders. This innovative Combined Overdose Response Team is helping to break the cycle of overdoses and bring some hope back to everyone fighting this crisis.”
“This Combined Overdose Response Team is a unique partnership, with fire and health care services working alongside each other,” said Dr. Daly. “This partnership builds on the successes of the Overdose Outreach Team of meeting people where they’re at, outside of traditional health care sites, and supporting people who can typically be hard to reach.”
Immediately following an overdose, patients may not be willing to discuss care options, but contacting them in the days afterward may provide an opportunity. Over a one week period, the team established contact with 22 patients who had recently overdosed, 21 of whom consented to an introduction to VCH’s Overdose Outreach Team.
“Patient care is more than keeping someone alive, it’s recognizing the factors that led to overdose and increase the likelihood of future ones. This has been the most rewarding initiative I have had the opportunity to work on,” said VFRS Captain Jonathan Gormick. “We’re reaching normally difficult to locate patients soon after their overdose incident and building in-person relationships that demonstrably improve their ability to access services. These combined efforts are working.”
The Overdose Outreach Team, consists of outreach workers, social workers, and peer support specialists, who help patients start treatment for opioid use disorder, connects them to other health and social services, and provide general harm reduction and overdose prevention education. The team is funded through the bi-lateral agreement under the BC/Canada Emergency Treatment fund and the Province’s Overdose Emergency Response.
“We reach out to people to let them know they are supported, and in the event they do want help with substance use, or they have questions about resources, we are here for them,” said Chris Dickinson, Overdose Outreach Team worker. “For someone who has opioid use disorder, perhaps in addition to other complex problems – it can be overwhelming attempting to navigate the health care system. With outreach we help people who may be unaware of the range of services that can improve their lives.”
Anyone can contact the Overdose Outreach Team by calling (604) 360-2874. The team serves the entire VCH region from Richmond, Vancouver, North Shore, the Sea to Sky Corridor and Powell River. For information about overdoses and substance use, visit vch.ca/overdose.
Director of Communications
Office of the Mayor of Vancouver
Vancouver Coastal Health