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B.C. pledges $1M for harm reduction to prevent overdose deaths among construction workers

Funding will expand Tailgate Toolkit program, which has already been operating on Vancouver Island
A construction worker works on the roof line of apartments under construction in the 1600 block of E. Marine View Drive on Friday, April 24, 2020 in Everett, Wa. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

The province is pledging $1 million towards expanding a program aimed at reducing illicit drug poisonings among construction workers in B.C.

Addictions Minister Sheila Malcolmson said that the funding would be aimed at expanding the Tailgate Toolkit Project, which offers harm reduction and treatment programs for construction and trades workers.

Malcolmson said that the construction industry has been hit hard by B.C.’s overdose crisis, which has worsened as drugs have become more toxic in recent years. The most recent data from the BC Coroners Service showed that 71 per cent of the 1,782 people who died as a result of toxic drugs in 2021 were aged 30 to 59, and 79 per cent were male. According to the 2020 B.C. Labour Force Survey, 86 per cent of those who worked in construction were male.

Malcolmson said that 20 per cent of those who die due to the illicit drug crisis in B.C. are construction or trades workers, or work as equipment operators.

“This particular sector has been hit hard,” Malcolmson said, adding that stigma often leads to workers using alone.

“Using drugs alone often means dying alone,”she added, noting that 69 per cent of those who die due to illicit drug overdoses used alone.

According to the addictions ministry, the Tailgate Toolkit includes training for managers to recognize and provide support for people with substance use and mental health challenges, including mental health first aid, naloxone training and safer ways to manage pain. It will also provide print and digital resources to highlight harm reduction and recovery services available to workers.

READ MORE: B.C. paramedics receive record number of overdose calls in 2021, up 31% since 2020


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