B.C. investing $1M into preventing toxic drug deaths in construction industry
The British Columbia government is investing $1 million into expanding a program to help prevent drug overdoses in the construction industry.
The funding will expand the Vancouver Island Construction Association's current Tailgate Toolkit project, a harm-reduction program that began as a pilot on the island in January 2021.
The program provides harm-reduction training in the workplace, organized substance-use support groups and information about community resources for drug users.
The B.C. Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions says the funding will help reduce the stigma of substance use and raise awareness about pain management, treatment and mental health supports across the industry in B.C.
The $1-million investment will be provided through the B.C. division of the Canadian Mental Health Association and the provincial Community Action Initiative.
"The toxic drug crisis continues to take lives at a tragic rate," said Mental Health and Addictions Minister Sheila Malcolmson in a statement Thursday. "In cases where we know where someone worked, nearly 20 per cent of those who died worked in trades, transport or as equipment operators."
B.C. Labour Minister Harry Bains called the province's drug-poisoning crisis "heartbreaking" and said the expanded Tailgate Toolkit program will "ensure construction workers know the risks and feel empowered to get help when they need it."
The program will include training in mental-health first aid and naloxone treatment for workplace managers.
"We are eager to continue the work that we have been piloting over the past year and would like to thank the Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions for entrusting the Vancouver Island Construction Association with this funding," said Rory Kulmala, CEO of the Vancouver Island Construction Association.
"Through the support of our membership and our industry partners, we have been able to develop a truly grassroots initiative specifically designed for our workers including access to resources and support, which they may not have realized were available to them," he added.
More than three-quarters of those who died from suspected illicit drug toxicity between January and October 2021 were men, according to the B.C. Coroners Service. The construction industry in B.C. is predominantly male, with men making up 86 per cent of the workforce, according to the 2020 Labour Force Survey.