VICTORIA — Construction leaders on Vancouver Island have announced a new program to combat the rising rates of drug overdoses.
The Vancouver Island Construction Association (VICA) has launched its Tailgate Toolkit Project, a three-phased approach that includes stakeholder engagement, development and implementation of training curriculum and refinement of training based on feedback.
“Workers in construction, the trades, and transportation have been hit particularly hard by this crisis,” says Sheila Malcolmson, minister of mental health and addictions, in a statement. “We want people to feel comfortable talking about mental health and substance use. 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 province will contribute nearly $250,000 with Island Health into the Tailgate Toolkit Project’s harm-reduction strategy. The project is targeted to reach those who primarily work in the trades. The BC Coroners Service reported in 2018 that of those who lost their lives, 81 per cent were men. Forty-four per cent of people who died of overdose were employed, and more than half worked in trades or transport.
“The ongoing overdose crisis cannot be overshadowed by the COVID pandemic,” said Rory Kulmala, VICA CEO. “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.”
The first part of the strategy is already being conducted. VICA plans to have more focus groups for supervisors, managers, owners, union reps and educators in construction to hear their ideas and experiences of how drug use impacts the industry.
VICA also will do confidential one-on-one interviews with anyone who has worked in construction within the last five years and uses or has used drugs. The association stated these interviews will be used to develop a training curriculum and resources for employers and employees and will inform recommendations to reduce the damage drugs have on tradespeople.