When the opioid crisis in BC escalated to the heights of a public emergency in 2016, folks at the Overdose Prevention Society (OPS) set up a tent in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside as a critical frontline response. Technically illegal despite its necessity, the OPS was—and continues to be—a site rooted in harm reduction, where people are able to use drugs safely with supervision.
An intimate observation of the OPS over a number of years, Love in the Time of Fentanyl witnesses the exhausting but essential work required to keep the site running, and the people dedicated to its continuance. We follow Sarah, a founding OPS member and activist, as well as Trey, a former heroin user who memorializes the lives lost to overdose through graffiti art. We accompany frontline workers like Ronnie (also known in the community as “Narcan Jesus”) as he struggles with extreme burnout; Indigenous elder Norma as she cooks meals for staff and volunteers; and Dana, an active fentanyl user whose own experiences with overdose continue to propel him in his efforts to save lives.
The opioid crisis is not over. Six years after it opened its doors, the OPS is as necessary now as it was in 2016, its efforts compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic. Love in the Time of Fentanyl is a crucial film from director Colin Askey—one that explores, with considerable care and compassion, the frontlines of the ongoing drug-poisoning epidemic in this city.