December 11, 2017 9:49 pm

Police should stop attending overdose calls, says Vancouver legal advocacy group

First responders tend to an overdose victim in Vancouver's Downtown East Side.

Sarah Blyth / Twitter

A Vancouver-based legal group is advocating for police departments in the Lower Mainland to stop attending 911 overdose calls.

Caitlin Shane of the Pivot Legal Society says that police presence at overdose calls can deter people from calling for help in an emergency.

LISTEN: Caitlin Shane joins Jon McComb to talk about police presence at overdose calls

“People should not have fear when they’re calling 911 for assistance, and police should not be showing up at the scenes of overdoses and engaging in investigation,” said Shane.

“The purpose of a person calling 911 is for emergency medical assistance.”

READ MORE: Vancouver Fire Rescue responded to more than 6,000 overdose calls this year

She said that the Good Samaritan Drug Overdose Act passed in May of 2017, protects people from being charged for simple possession in an overdose situation, but doesn’t provide adequate protection from other criminal charges.

People may fear they’ll get arrested if police show up, said Shane.

WATCH: Okanagan paramedics respond to 1600 calls for suspected overdoses so far in 2017

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During her work in the Downtown East Side, she said part of her job required her to call 911.

“That would significantly threaten my relationships with the clients that I served. I saw numerous occasions [of] people fearing calling 911 and not doing it,” said Shane.

READ MORE: B.C.’s overdose crisis is taking its toll on paramedics

According to Shane, Vancouver police officers only attend overdose calls when requested by emergency medical services, and other police departments should follow suit.

More than 1,000 people have died from overdose deaths in B.C. so far in 2017.

© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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