What’s Caught our Attention – February 2021

Photographing Beyond ‘Needle-in-Puddle’

William Tomorowski and his partner Honey Turner play with their puppy Kalypso in the yard of their campsite at the Strathcona Park homeless encampment. Photo by Jesse Winter.

Jesse Winter, a photojournalist based in Vancouver, published an article in the Tyee exploring the role that photojournalism may play in altering the public’s perception of the Downtown Eastside. For better or worse. With the dual public health emergencies and often sensationalized journalism surrounding them, there is an onslaught of harmful imagery. In particular, Winter examines the frequently circulated image of the “needle in the puddle”, and how this image is devoid of humanity and often fails to represent an honest image of the Downtown Eastside.

But for people experiencing homelessness, the public park might be their backyard. A doorway might be their living room. People forced into public spaces by circumstances largely beyond their control deserve the same expectation of privacy as everyone else, and slyly snapping their photo with a telephoto lens so they can be reduced to a symbol for a story does a disservice to them, and to the reader.

You can read the article on the Ministry’s site here.

B.C. proposes drug decriminalization as overdose deaths climb

More than 6000 people have died of overdose in B.C. since the declaration of the overdose emergency in 2016. In 2020 alone, 1716 people died, making 2020 the most fatal year for overdose deaths in British Columbia’s history.

In response to the alarming numbers of lives lost, B.C. is seeking federal support to become the first province to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of illicit drugs. The B.C. Minister of Mental Health and Addictions Sheila Malcolmson wrote to Ottawa requesting a province wide exemption under Section 56 of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.

You can read more about the proposal in the CBC article here.

New recovery beds coming in B.C.

The Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions has announced that B.C. will soon have more than 100 new publicly funded recovery beds. These beds will be based in fourteen organizations across the province.

You can read the release here.

First nurses trained to prescribe pharmaceutical alternatives to illicit drugs – a Canadian first

As part of B.C.’s overdose response plan, the first cohort of registered nurses (RNs) are on track to begin prescribing medications that are safe pharmaceutical alternatives to street drugs. Thirty RNs and registered psychiatric nurses (RPNs) will complete their training in February to prescribe buprenorphine/naloxone (commonly known as Suboxone), which is a first-line opioid agonist treatment (OAT) medication.

This B.C. initiative will directly improve access to life-saving medication and will create much-needed opportunities for nurses to support access to the full spectrum of substance use care for Indigenous rural and remote communities.

You can read the article on the FNHA website here, and access additional FNHA resources about mental health and substance use here.