As B.C.’s overdose crisis rages on, Vancouver Island organizations are being given extra help to expand local overdose response and awareness efforts.

Through a provincial program, $1-million in grants is being distributed to 23 rural, remote and Indigenous communities and organizations, with five of those groups located on the island.

On the North Island, grant recipients include Port Hardy-based Gwa’sala-‘Nakwaxda’xw Nations, and Campbell River-based Kwakiutl District Health Council.

Other groups getting funding include Courtenay-based Indigenous Women’s Sharing Society, the Ts’ewulhtun Health Centre in Duncan, Ucluelet-based West Coast Community Resources, and the Dudes Club Society.

As people in rural and remote areas face obstacles when it comes to accessing substance use services, the Province says the grants will help connected people to live-saving supports.

“First Nations people and Indigenous communities are over-represented when it comes to overdose deaths and an increasingly toxic drug supply has magnified the impact of the overdose crisis,” it says.

“Data from January to October 2020 shows First Nations people died from overdose at a rate 5.5 times higher than other residents in B.C.”

The funds, administered by the Community Action Initiative and the Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions, look to address these inequities by supporting community groups, service providers, and Indigenous-led organizations.

For North Island MLA Michele Babchuk, this comes as welcome news. She says accessing supports in a timely and culturally safe way is “so important for people through mental health or addiction challenges.”

“Supporting and funding local service providers helps break down barriers and provides people in rural and remote communities with the services they need, when they need them,” Babchuk adds.