Acknowledging that Vancouver’s most vulnerable population has been grappling with an ongoing overdose crisis since 2016 and is now burdened by the COVID-19 pandemic, Vancouver Coastal Health, in partnership with the B.C. Ministry of Health and BC Centre for Substance Use (BCCSU), responded to address the risk of COVID-19 transmission among the Downtown Eastside population. In response to the dual public health emergencies, the Vancouver Coastal Health COVID-19 response team was seeking strategic communications and design support in developing resources around safe supply management, overdose, and shelters on the Downtown Eastside. For individuals living with severe substance use disorders, there is a potential for increased transmission of COVID-19 if they are unable to self-quarantine due to withdrawal or other substance-use related issues. Vancouver Coastal Health needed support in developing informational resources around the prescription and management of substances, for use by doctors, clinics, pharmacists, housing support workers, clients, and the general public, as well as resources about testing, overdose response, and shelter referral pathways. These materials provide information to people with substance use disorders, health care providers, and support workers regarding health and safety measures in the case of substance use and associated challenges such as overdose.
Be the Change Group assembled a dedicated, on-call team to develop a communications plan, and edit and design the appropriate documents, which included clinical and prescriber workflow charts, a brochure/poster, and a number of one- and two-page documents for both digital and print distribution. We rapidly developed assets as needed, reviewing all background materials with the Vancouver Coastal Health team and our in-house clinician, conducting multiple rounds of edits, and designing in formats that would allow the client team and their staff to edit/update documents at will.