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VICTORIA — The British Columbia government is providing a $1-million grant to expand access to resources aimed at preventing overdose deaths in the construction industry.

Sheila Malcolmson, the minister of mental health and addictions, says the program dubbed the Tailgate Toolkit was developed on Vancouver Island last year in partnership with people in the industry who have experience with illicit drug use.

She says it’s now set to be expanded across the province, offering training for supervisors, access to peer-led support groups and resources to help raise awareness of treatment options and combat the stigma surrounding drug use.

The toolkit will include training for managers and responders to recognize and provide support for people with substance-use and mental-health challenges, including mental-health first aid, naloxone training, pain management and more.

As part of this project, construction associations throughout British Columbia, including the Northern Regional Construction Association (NRCA), will host dedicated harm-reduction co-ordinators. They will also provide access to print and digital resources developed in consultation with regional health authorities to highlight the harm-reduction and recovery services available to workers within and beyond their benefit packages.

Rory Kulmala, CEO of the Vancouver Island Construction Association, says harm reduction co-ordinators are also sent to job sites for tailgate talks and they’ve delivered resources to more than 350 workers since launching last August.

Malcolmson says men make up almost 80 per cent of all deaths from illicit drugs in B.C., while nearly 20 per cent of those who died and whose professions were recorded worked in trades, transport or as equipment operators.

She says the program encourages conversations about drug use and addiction, reducing the stigma that can deter people from asking for help and that drives them to hide their substance use and consume drugs alone.

“In this climate of the terribly increasing toxicity of illicit street drugs, using drugs alone often means dying alone,” Malcolmson said Thursday.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 13, 2022.

The Canadian Press

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