Why businesses should be on board with harm reduction

(Photo credit: Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association)

why businesses should support harm reduction why businesses should support harm reduction

By Charles Gauthier, President/CEO of the Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association


It’s well known that Vancouver is currently facing an opioid crisis. In 2016, the number of overdose deaths began to spike. That year saw 232 overdose deaths—which was a 67% increase from the previous year. In 2019, that number skyrocketed to 394 deaths, which represented a 183% increase from 2015. As we likely all know by now, the problem is largely due to the increased presence of fentanyl and carfentanil in Vancouver’s illegal drug supply.

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The Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association (DVBIA) has long been a supporter of the “four pillars” drug strategy—which is based on the principles of harm reduction, prevention, treatment, and enforcement. Since 2018, the DVBIA has had a policy supporting supervised consumption sites. These sites save lives and prevent the spread of infectious diseases among people who use drugs and the general public. Additionally, through past research and conversations with health authorities and key community leaders, we learned that clientele of supervised consumption sites are more likely to enroll in methadone maintenance or other drug treatment programs.

Although naloxone kits and overdose prevention sites have helped decrease the number of overdose deaths in our city, the DVBIA believes that a safe drug supply is what’s needed now to truly make a difference. Progressive drug policies help the entire community, including businesses, big and small, trying to survive during these unprecedented times of global pandemic. Providing a safe supply of substances will decrease property-related crime in our commercial and residential areas, contribute to safer communities for everyone with less social disorder; but most importantly, they will save lives and connect people with the vital social supports needed to address the root causes of addiction. This is a solution where everyone wins.

The DVBIA represents 7,000 businesses and property owners in the central 90-block area of Vancouver’s downtown core

“Providing a safe supply of substances will decrease property-related crime in our commercial and residential areas, contribute to safer communities for everyone with less social disorder; but most importantly, they will save lives and connect people with the vital social supports needed to address the root causes of addiction.”

~ Charles Gauthier, Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association

We must do whatever we can to provide important resources with as few barriers as possible in the ongoing struggle against the current opioid crisis. The DVBIA believes that harm reduction strategies, including well-placed supervised consumption sites and a safe drug supply, can contribute to healthier, safer communities. This is a national public health emergency—and indeed, a problem faced by many large cities throughout the world. What’s needed now is for us to allow cities to implement innovative pilot programs that prioritize diversion to safe supply. This could be a means to address the growing opioid crisis in our city.

About the DVBIA

The Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association (DVBIA) supports, promotes and represents the shared interests of 7,000 businesses and property owners in the central 90-block area of Vancouver’s downtown core. They focus on priorities voiced by their members: programs and services in the areas of advocacy, accessibility, cleanliness, beautification, business support, marketing and mobility. They represent their members’ shared goals, drive creative solutions forward and take meaningful action to constantly improve the downtown Vancouver experience. They operate strategically at the intersection of downtown businesses, local policy-makers, non-profit organizations and all the people who make up Vancouver’s diverse neighbourhood communities.

About peterkimcdpc

Strategic Communications Manager, Canadian Drug Policy Coalition