B.C. tackling overdose crisis in Vancouver Island construction industry
VICTORIA -- People who work in the trades and construction industries on Vancouver Island will soon have more addictions supports available for them.
The Vancouver Island Construction Association (VICA) and the B.C. government have launched a new program, called the Tailgate Toolkit Project, to help address addictions and the overdose crisis in the industry.
Trevor Botkin started working in the trades when he was 19 years old. After 30 years of drinking and drug abuse, he hit rock bottom.
"Along with a work-hard attitude, can come a party-hard attitude as well," Botkin told CTV News on Wednesday. “It ended up becoming a double life. I was one person through the day and a totally different person as soon as I left the job site."
In 2019, Botkin went to rehab and now he is the executive director of a renovations charity called HeroWork.
In 2018, the BC Coroners Service said that roughly 81 per cent of all fatal overdoses occurred among men, while 44 per cent of fatal overdose victims were employed. Of that total, more than 50 per cent of people were employed in the trades or transport industries.
Now, the province and VICA are hoping to learn more about how addictions affect these industries, and what can be done to support employees.
“Workers in construction, the trades, and transportation have been hit particularly hard by this crisis,” said Sheila Malcolmson, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, in a statement Tuesday.
“We want people to feel comfortable talking about mental health and substance use,” she said. “This project will go a long way to reducing the stigma that still stops people from reaching out for the help they need and deserve.”
The Tailgate Toolkit Project will work through three phases.
The first phase, which is already underway, focuses on addictions education for supervisors, managers, owners, union reps, and educators in the industry. At the same time, people in these roles will be able to share their experiences and advice on drug use in the industry to the Vancouver Island Construction Association.
After that, VICA will meet with construction workers who have worked in the industry within the last five years who use or have used hard drugs. Workers will have the opportunity to confidentiality share their experiences, which will be used to help develop future resources and training for workers in the industry as part of phase two of the project.
Lastly, phase three of the Tailgate Toolkit Project will see VICA create recommendations on how to help reduce drug harms in the industry, based on engagement with workers and employers.
“The ongoing overdose crisis cannot be overshadowed by the COVID pandemic,” said Rory Kulmala, CEO of the Vancouver Island Construction Association.
“We are eager to work with Island Heath and all our various stakeholders to develop an innovative harm-reduction strategy to assist at-risk workers from a variety of industries.”