As part of the Province’s pandemic response, employment obligations were suspended for clients supported by the BC Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction (SDPR)’s Expected-to-Work (ETW) income assistance program, during which time WorkBC enrolment rates fell from 15% to 5%. After SDPR resumed enforcing employment obligations (March of 2022), WorkBC engagement only partially recovered (~8%, by October of 2022). Front-line SDPR staff we interviewed relayed complaints from ETW clients of multiple behavioural barriers preventing them from connecting with WorkBC, including: (1) a lack of awareness of the services offered by WorkBC, (2) information/cognitive overload, (3) a lack of motivation or interest, (4) forgetting to register, and (5) impersonal service.
In 2019, there were there were 24,166 overdose ambulance calls (~66/day) in BC, and in the Vancouver Coastal Health Region 39% of all ambulance calls were for an overdose. In 2020, 1,767 British Columbians died of an illicit drug overdose (~5/day) vs. approx. 957 from COVID-19 (~3/day). Harm reduction has certainly helped but is clearly not enough to keep things from getting worse. Stopping the overdose crisis will require improving our understanding of substance use disorders and risk factors for overdose that can be used to develop effective preventative measures.