The Drug User Liberation Front announces that it will hand out a safer supply of opiates and cocaine in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside to people who use drugs.
Earlier today, the group held a protest march and rally in the DTES in support of a 'real' safe supply of drugs in British Columbia.
The protest was created in direct response to a staggering increase in overdose deaths in the province from an ever more toxic drug supply due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In May alone, 170 people died of an overdose, topping the previous record of 161 set in December 2016. Of the 170, the presence of fentanyl was detected in 119 cases.
Now, the group says it will provide a safer supply of opiates and cocaine to residents of the DTES for free. In a release, it states that, "These drugs have been tested via FTIR spectrometry and immunoassay and are free of fentanyl, fentanyl analogues, benzodiazepines and many other harmful adulterants."
Currently, heroin and cocaine are not available as part of the Province’s recent Safe Supply rollout. The Drug User Liberation Front says that, "access to these necessary substances is both inadequate and urgently needed."
The Province of BC, the City of Vancouver, and the Vancouver Police Department have all expressed support for and/or called for Safe Supply.
"British Columbia joined the global community in quickly and effectively dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic in order to prevent the deaths of many of its at-risk citizens. Still, those at risk of overdose death have not benefited from the same kind of decisive and definitive action. This discrimination against a vulnerable population, resulting in death on this scale, is unacceptable," state rally organizers.
"Step up and address the issues that are killing us, or allow us access to the resources and funds to do it ourselves, outside of the constraints of this discriminatory structure."
The Drug User Liberation Front calls for the following response:
- Acknowledge that BC prescribers are not prescribing safer supply under BCCSU risk mitigation guidelines to any significant extent and amend these guidelines to include all people who use drugs, not just those at risk of COVID-19.
- Immediately include injectable heroin and cocaine into accessible, safe supply options and expand BC Pharmacare to cover injectable hydromorph in addition these options.
- Ensure equal access to harm reduction services and safe supply options across BC (e.g. supervised consumption sites, prescriptions).
- Issue a statement from the BC College of Physicians and Surgeons supporting the BCCSU Risk Mitigation guidelines to ensure prescribers feel comfortable prescribing these options.
- Amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (CDSA) to decriminalize the simple possession of drugs. In the interim, we demand the Province of BC follows the recommendations of the Provincial Health Officer to impose de facto decriminalization in BC—by Ministerial direction, amending provincial policing policy, or amending BC’s Police Act.
- Defund the VPD and reallocate the funding into community-led overdose response initiatives.
Formed in response to the ever-mounting overdose deaths in B.C. and across Canada, the Drug User Liberation Front looks to provide tangible solutions to the overdose crisis.
Fraser Health’s chief medical health officer Dr. Martin Lavoie said surging unemployment due to the pandemic has added stress that often leads to a rise in the consumption of illicit substances. Compounding the problem, shutdowns at the border have disrupted the flow of drugs, limiting supply and increasing toxicity.
- With files from Gary Mckenna / Tri-City News.