Local Leadership United (LLU) is a provincial project meant to support Local Governments with the work communities are already doing to respond to the Overdose/Toxic Drug/Drug Poisoning Crisis. The project was created by the BC Overdose Emergency Response Centre (OERC), through a partnership between Community Action Initiative (CAI) and the BC Center for Disease Control (BCCDC), in recognition that Municipalities are uniquely positioned to support overdose response through their local expertise. Specifically, LLU is supporting local elected officials and other stakeholders, by hosting regional convenings across the province.
To date, LLU has held six regional dialogues with elected officials, city staff and local harm reduction resources, presented at the UBCM AGM and conducted two trainings with bylaw officers and the service providers they can work collaboratively with. LLU has also conducted extensive stakeholder engagement across BC with respect to the issues Local Governments are facing in relation to the Overdose Crisis and how Local Governments can best support response efforts.
The key messages below were developed by the LLU team, to support conversations that elected officials are having with communities about harm reduction and the Overdose Crisis.
Harm Reduction and Overdose Response in Local Governments
Key Messages for Elected Officials and Communities
1. Addiction is a health issue, not a law enforcement issue.
a. We should support health service providers to provide services to people with substance use challenges.
b. History and research have shown that increased enforcement for complex societal issues (like mental health and substance use) does not work.
c. Remembering that people who use drugs are family members and focusing on community connection, works to build a healthy community!
2. Decriminalization of unregulated substances is a critical step to bringing people back into our communities as valued humans.
a. When society decriminalized alcohol people had similar initial worries and concerns. We need to do the same with unregulated substances.
b. As long as an issue is criminalized it will be stigmatized.
c. Valuing our family and community members brings them out of secrecy and shame.
3. Men between the ages of 30 to 59, who are housed are dying at the highest rates. Effective strategies to support these men include:
a. Anti-stigma campaigns to normalize and change society’s attitudes and improve access to health care.
b. Access to safe supply.
4. Access to safe supply saves lives, especially in the 86% of overdose deaths occurring behind closed doors.
5. We are at a pivotal shift in how our society deals with substance use and the health/social outcomes associated with it. This shift will save lives, improve community well-being, and make us more resilient to other challenges (i.e., the housing crisis).
a. Harm reduction is the proven approach to build community wellness in relation to substance use.
b. We are building on established, proven systems of care – see resource list.
c. Expanding the use of a harm reduction approach will reach new populations.
6. This work cannot be done alone. There are local resources that you can work with to shift the conversation and get the right messages into community, including:
a. Harm Reduction Coordinators at Regional Health Authorities (RHAs)
b. Mental Health and Substance Use Teams at RHAs
c. Healthy Community Teams at RHA(s)
d. Community-based organizations on the frontline in your community
e. People who use substances from your community