Life-saving staff and volunteers at front line community organizations are experiencing high levels of stress, trauma and burnout from the deadly opioid crisis.

A report released today by Central City Foundation says that more support is needed from other foundations, government and the broader community to begin solving the crisis.

Central City Foundation conducted in-depth interviews over the past few months with 29 leaders of essential community service organizations in the inner city. All reported that the opioid epidemic is straining their operations, their staff and their clients.

More than 71 per cent of organizations say the opioid crisis is having a direct impact on their staff and their work with people in the inner city. Another 29 per cent say the impact of the crisis has been indirect, but still highly significant.

The full report is available for download online.

“The people who work and volunteer at these non-profit organizations are the front line workers in our community and in the opioid crisis,” says Jennifer Johnstone, President and CEO of Central City Foundation. “Each day they are providing support to those who have lost loved ones and are literally saving lives, all while continuing to provide vital services for our neighbours in the inner city.”

Some of the key findings in this community report include identifying these significant challenges for community organizations, highlighting programs that are working to save lives today as well as providing insights from community groups into how to start solving the crisis.

In addition to detailing the challenges workers and organizations are facing with the immense loss of life in this crisis, the report looks at the impact of the stigma surrounding substance use on inner city residents and the limits of community resilience.

“Every single person in the inner city is connected to a family and to our community,” says Johnstone. “They are all our neighbours. Our report calls on all of us to challenge the attitudes and beliefs that marginalize or stigmatize our neighbours, and provide the support they need.”

Some of the programs detailed in the report that are working to deal with the situation include: holistic healing that treats the whole person, not just their addiction; addictions treatment with a continuum of care; overdose prevention sites that provide a judgement-free safe space for drug use; opportunities for work and volunteering that can provide purpose; and peer driven initiatives.

Possible solutions to the opioid crisis identified in the report include strengthening the capacity of community organizations as well as investing in programs and initiatives aimed at addressing the systemic causes of addiction and substance use in our community.

“Our community partners have important insights into how to start solving the problems this crisis has created,” says Johnstone. “Their thoughts on potential solutions should lead everyone to look at opportunities to work together to alleviate this crisis.”

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About Central City Foundation:

A leader in Canada in social purpose real estate, Central City Foundation has been bringing neighbours together for more than 100 years to improve the lives of people in need in Vancouver’s inner city through grants, sustainable social purpose real estate and investments in facilities and programs. The Foundation owns five buildings that provide low income housing and space and place for community organizations that are improving lives through unique early learning and education programs, daycares, health and family services, addiction treatment centres, and social enterprises.


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