Vancouver Community Coalition Against Prohibition and Overdose (VanCCAPO)

Communities served:  

• CPDDW: People who use drugs.
• DUDES Club: Men, Indigenous men. 
• TORO: Single Room Occupancy (SRO) hotel tenants. 
• WAHRS: Indigenous people who use drugs.


“The Vancouver Community Coalition Against Prohibition and Overdose (VAN CCAPO) was a collaboration between the Coalition of Peers Dismantling the Drug War (CPDDW), the Western Aboriginal Harm Reduction Society (WAHRS), the Tenant Overdose Response Organizers

(TORO), and the DUDES Club. It was made up of justice seeking community members of Vancouver’s Downtown East Side (DTES) and consisted of the grassroots peer leaders of the present, and the future. Although the coalition is currently unfunded and therefore inactive, its constituent membership continues to resist and fight back against the drug war and colonization, and to work together to create a vibrant, safe, and beautiful community in Vancouver’s DTES by keeping each other safe, housed, and alive. The membership of our coalition continues fighting for a safe supply of all drugs, for safer spaces for marginalized people, for our rights, for ending the war on drugs, and for the end of 400 years of colonization. To this end, despite our current lack of funding, we continue to collaborate informally in order to put grassroots organizations front and centre in the overdose prevention movement and to focus on continued clear intergroup communication, including building a strong community response to the ongoing crisis of prohibition based on self-directed and autonomous community organizing and solidarity.”

“Van CCAPO made all its decisions at a drug user led, monthly steering committee, which occurred in person at a central location in the DTES. All decisions were made with one hundred percent consensus by all of the groups’ representatives present. Decisions or issues that were contentious were discussed in person until resolved.”
Overview of Overdose Response Work
• Direct outreach to, and advocacy alongside, people who use drugs, including education.
• Storytelling and narrative production; this includes releasing resources for people who use drugs on how to survive the current genocide against them, and information that combats the current medical narrative that safe supply must be institutionalized.
• Drug user capacity building, resource development, and interagency collaboration; this includes best practice policy development and ongoing expansion and moderation of a peer-to-peer education curriculum.
• The production of research and information dissemination to the community as warranted and requested.

Lessons Learned
Challenge 1 - Continued Escalation in Rate of Overdose Morbidity: "Opiate overdoses remain an ever present danger for our community, with folks frequently responding to overdoses, and five people a day passing away in British Columbia due to fluctuations in drug content caused primarily driven by the failure of prohibitionist drug policy. With an ever more unpredictable drug supply, overdose rates have continued to be compounded by isolation, and service closures due to COVID. The problem has become so dire that one person on our outreach team reported responding to four overdoses in a week, with one of the overdoses being fatal, “a 18 year old girl…Indigenous… who moved into [building redacted] when she was 17”. Van CCAPO’s membership is currently working closely to connect folks to BC’s safer supply programming. Nevertheless, as medical access to safe supply is not enough to stem the tide of death. As mentioned previously, the CPDDW, TORO, and WAHRS are currently working with the Drug User Liberation Front, and others, on ensuring that low barrier compassion clubs can be scaled up, ensuring an end to these preventable deaths. This process includes assisting with a Section 56 exemption request for the aforementioned compassion clubs, as well as a Substance Use and Addictions Program Grant, which will be written in September."

Challenge 2 – Peer Led Program Implementation under Intersectional Duress: "Several other challenges faced this coalition, including COVID-19 group restrictions; attendance and discipline issues; conflicts between our members; and street degree content not always relating to its target demographic perfectly. However, we made the following adjustments to address these obstacles/challenges: Smaller groups were formed and easier to manage due to COVID-19 restrictions. Offering a hands-on approach helped ensure engagement remained high. One on one meetings with mediators were set up to address conflicts when necessary. Street degree content was updated to reflect the input of people who use drugs."

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