Vital People: Tailgate toolkit helps raise awareness about overdose crisis


Rory Kulmala is passionate about the construction industry.

“Construction is a big part of our community,” the CEO of the Vancouver Island Construction Association says. “It’s a big part of my life. I’ve been a part of my life darn near 30 years and I think we want it to be healthy.”

That’s why Rory is trying to raise awareness about substance abuse and the opioid crisis.

“A few years ago there was a coroner’s report that cited that nearly 24 per cent of deaths come from the construction or the transportation sector,” Rory says. “That’s our sector so with that kind of statistic, it really compelled us to take action.”

Rory spearheaded the Tailgate Toolkit initiative to support harm reduction and mental health.

“It’s not that we’re having people that are going to work and injecting and taking in a substance and dying on the job site,” Rory explains. “It’s not happening there. It’s happening at home. That’s when the stress hits.”

The program started out as a small initiative with Island Health two years ago and it recently received provincial funding to expand across B.C.  But Rory says he initially got a lot of push-back.

“It’s a bit of the ‘if you say there’s a problem people will know there’s a problem’ and I just found that somewhat of an unacceptable stance,” Rory says.

But by talking about the problem, they’re helping to save lives.

“I think it’s really good to spread the word about awareness, absolutely,” says Victoria construction site superintendent Tyson Farey. “It’s important for everyone to have those kind of resources.”

Tyson’s one of the many people who’s been personally impacted by the overdose crisis.

“I have actually, first-hand, with a few friends I have lost in recent years,” he says. “It’s quite sad.”

Rory is being recognized for the difference he’s making with a Victoria Community Leadership Award from Leadership Victoria.

“It makes me feel humbled,” Rory says. “I’m very proud of what we’re doing, I’m very proud of the attention we’re getting.”

Tess van Straaten

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