An unprecedented overdose crisis is killing thousands of people across Canada, and nowhere is the death toll more pronounced and shockingly tragic than in British Columbia, where 1,449 people have died from illicit drug overdoses in 2017. Fuelling the loss of life is a toxic drug supply tainted by fentanyl and carfentanil and inadequate drug policies continuing to focus on prohibition and criminalization. This policy approach has been shown to push substance use further underground, thereby increasing the harms to society.
Within this environment, people who use substances and their advocates have taken a leading role upholding the health and safety of those at risk by setting up overdose prevention sites offering low-barrier harm reduction services. One such site was located along East Hastings Street near Columbia Street in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. Founded and run by the Overdose Prevention Society (OPS), the site and its model of service delivery have proven extremely effective in saving lives for a community in dire need.
In the beginning of 2018, Data for Good Vancouver partnered with OPS to analyze data contained in two anonymized data sets, one relating to self-reported substance use (data from the Downtown Eastside Market); the other, visit volumes and health outcomes at the site. On January 13, 2018, volunteers from Data for Good Vancouver held a datathon where the raw data was analyzed. The findings, insights, and recommendations from that analysis are summarized in the following report.
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