An Insider’s Perspective
What needs to change?
“There’s so much more to be done.”
Vicky Waldron says the first step is education.
“I think there’s a lack of understanding. All the employers I speak to, they’re all struggling themselves, they don’t quite know how to manage this issue. I don’t know if the question we should be asking is if the employers are doing enough (to support workers). I think the question is what more can we do to support the employers around how to help the workers… I think there’s more education that needs to be done. I think there needs to be more understanding. It’s going to take all of us moving as a whole to get to the folk that need the help.” – Vicki Waldron, Construction Industry Rehabilitation Plan Executive Director
Waldron and Mullins both say the construction industry generally has a zero tolerance approach when it comes to drug use. They also say the evidence shows that zero tolerance approaches do not work. Mullins points to the current state of affairs as an example. At the Construction Industry Rehabilitation Plan, Waldron uses the Biopsychosocial Model to treat patients. Mullins is a vocal advocate of the industry embracing a mindset more accepting of a harm reduction approach.
Vancouver has historically been one of the world’s most progressive cities when it comes to adopting a harm reduction approach towards drug users. This timeline shows how far the city and province have come.
Jeremy Hunka, of Union Gospel Mission thinks the construction industry could be doing a lot more for its workers.
“From what I’ve gathered from our guests that have worked in the construction industry… they’ve been completely left to their own devices when they find themselves in a time of need.” – Jeremy Hunka, Union Gospel Mission
Hunka was not surprised by that fact that the construction industry is being hit hardest by the opioid crisis. Many of the clients he’s worked with at Union Gospel Mission have histories in construction. He said many former construction workers he’s helped at UGM were “left with nothing” after they were either fired or injured.
When asked what he thought the industry could be doing to better, Jeremy said the answer begins with compassion.
“I think just treating everyone equally… some of the stories I have heard from former construction workers are quite saddening. I can’t speak for the construction industry precisely but I know that if you start to treat people with care… the change it can have on someone is immense.” – Jeremy Hunka, Union Gospel Mission
Stats Canada reports show it has been three years since the first major spike in overdose deaths across the province. The VPD has since released a plan of action to try to combat the opioid crisis.
“We are seeing the effects of the opioid crisis firsthand in the neighborhoods we serve and feel an ethical obligation to call for change.” – Vancouver Police Department
In 2006 the VPD adopted the “4 pillars” approach to substance abuse. The VPD says this model is based around prevention, harm reduction, enforcement, and treatment. The VPD says the four pillars approach has proven to be successful, but limited implementation and a lack of funding has lead to ” insufficient organized treatment systems.” The VPD calls for similar recommendations to Vicky Waldron: higher levels of education, funding, public awareness, and research.
If you or someone you know is struggling with opioid addiction, reach out to a healthcare provider or addiction clinic near you.