A Vancouver Island group is starting a project to tackle the problem of overdoses among people working in the trades.
The “Tailgate Toolkit” project has been started by the Vancouver Island Construction Association and will aim to provide resources to both those struggling with addictions and employers facing the problem.
The new harm reduction project was jumpstarted with the assistance of funding from the B.C. Government and draws its name from a common practice on the job site.
“It’s a ritual on job sites, you start the morning around the tailgate of your truck and you talk about safety,” said Rory Kulmala, CEO of the Vancouver Island Construction Association.
“You talk about work. Let’s bring that dialogue to the job site where people can say I have a problem, I need some help, and they can quietly do that in confidence.”
A B.C. Coroners Service investigation into Illicit Drug Overdose Deaths back in 2018 found that 81 per cent of those who died were men and 55 per cent worked in the trades.
Trevor Botkin had worked in the trades for more than 25 years and says it’s more common than we may think.
“I found a family that I fit in with and embraced me and all they asked was for a lot of hard work,” he said.
‘The culture in construction sort of celebrates suffering on a physical level. We grind it out and put in the long days.”
The long days extended with beers after work and Botkin said that increased work responsibilities contributed to substance abuse.
“It was a recreational thing for me and a place to blow off some steam…[I was also] biting off more than I could chew, I was taking on too much and drugs was diminishing my ability to follow through on things.”
Wanting to break away from that lifestyle, he switched jobs hoping a change of scenery would stop the abuse, but Botkin said things just got worse, leading to suicidal thoughts.
It was then he knew he needed help, he has been clean for two years.
Botkin says programs like this are needed to help break down walls and save lives.
“It’s a bit of an open secret, he said.
“It’s there… it’s apparent we need to start talking about this and reducing the stigma.”
He is now on the advisory panel for the Tailgate Toolkit project. They have hired a project manager and hope it will be up and running within the year.
Funding for the project came from the Overdose Emergency Response Centre at the Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions, through Island Health’s Overdose Strategic Initiatives.
More details can be found online here.