(Victoria Buzz stock photo)

Four Vancouver Island municipalities are among a total of 24 to receive grants from the provincial government geared towards aiding in the fight against the overdose crisis.

A total of over $900,000 in grants has been made available by the Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions to municipalities for local community wellness, safety and harm-reduction projects.

See also: ‘We are in no way out of this crisis yet’: Nearly 1,000 drug overdose deaths recorded in BC in 2019

24 municipalities across B.C. received up to $50,000 each for initiatives and efforts related to saving lives and reducing the overdose crisis in the province.

On Vancouver Island, the cities of Victoria, Langford, Campbell River, and Port Alberni all received these grants.

Examples of programs supported by these grants include those engaged in harm reduction efforts like drop-in meal programs, needle recovery programs, and employment programs.

“We are incredibly proud to be one of 24 communities selected for this grant. The City of Port Alberni works closely with the community action team to provide supports and resources dedicated to community-based harm-reduction services,” said Sharie Minions, mayor of Port Alberni, in a statement.

“Through grants like this, we are demonstrating how powerful collaboration between provincial and local governments, local service providers, persons with lived experience, and citizens of the Alberni Valley can make a difference in the lives of those seeking a pathway to treatment and recovery.”

These one-time grants will be administered by the Community Action Initiative and are supported by the Community Crisis Innovation Fund through the Ministry of Health.

According to the provincial government, this funding is part of an investment of $746 million between 2017 and 2023 aimed at harm reduction, prevention, enforcement, treatment and recovery initiatives.

In their annual report, the BC Coroners Service found that 981 people have died in B.C. in 2019 due to suspected illicit drug use, which is down by 36% from the 1,489 overdose deaths recorded in 2018.

Just like 2018, Victoria had the third highest in number of overdose deaths in the province, after Vancouver and Surrey. But last year there were 60 deaths in the provincial capital compared to 96 deaths in 2018.

However the authority noted that the number of deaths last year is nearly the same as that in 2016 when the health emergency was first declared.