Photo: The team at the Powell Street Getaway launches an overdose prevention site.
Vancouver Coastal Health opened its fourth overdose prevention site, with the Lookout Society, to help save lives and prevent further harm for people who use substances.
Four booths are now up and running at the new Downtown Eastside (DTES) Mental Health and Substance Use Drop-In Centre Powell Street Getaway (located at 528 Powell Street). The booths are staffed by a registered nurse and a frontline shelter resource worker – both experienced with counteracting overdoses using naloxone and breaths, and offering harm reduction supplies. Clients will also be offered other health care supports and resources, such as treatment, if required. The site is open from noon to 8 pm seven days a week.
“We are seeing an alarming increase in illicit drug overdose deaths and action is required at all levels to saves lives,” said BC Health Minister Terry Lake. “The overdose prevention sites will ensure that people have a place where they can be safely monitored and treated immediately if they overdose.”
Keir Macdonald, Lookout’s Deputy Executive Director says, “The costs and effects of overdoses - not only on the victims of overdose, but also on their friends, family and on our staff, encouraged us to take proactive action as soon as possible to help people.”
“With the onset of colder weather, the increased risk of death and brain damage from a combination of overdose and hypothermia has challenged us to explore additional options for overdose prevention that do not breach the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act while we wait for Health Canada approval of supervised consumption services,” said Dr. Perry Kendall, provincial health officer. “As such, I have recommended that health authorities work to make oversight and reversal of overdose more available as an emergency strategy in locations where we know injections and overdose risk already exist.”
Lookout Society plans to keep the site operational until further notice while awaiting federal approval for a supervised injection service. In October 2016 VCH submitted an application to Health Canada for an exemption under Section 56 of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act for two new supervised injection services including the Powell Street Getaway.
The Lookout Emergency Aid Society, founded in 1971, operates 31 buildings across eleven Metro Vancouver communities, assisting with housing and health solutions. Lookout reaches nearly 2,500 people every day through its 74 programs and houses over 1,200 people each night in shelters, transitional, supportive and affordable housing.