Health Canada has granted Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) a four-year exemption to continue operating Insite, the supervised injection site on the Downtown Eastside. This multi-year decision marks a significant change to the annual exemption that VCH has been required to adhere to since 2011.
“This reflects an understanding of the tremendous value the facility has, and signals that Insite is an important part of health services within the Vancouver community in the eyes of the federal government,” says B.C. Health Minister Terry Lake.
“Overdose deaths in Vancouver are on the rise, as is the presence of fentanyl in the illicit drug market in Vancouver and throughout B.C.,” says Dr. Patricia Daly, Chief Medical Health Officer at VCH. “Supervised injection services, like those provided at Insite and the Dr. Peter Centre, are needed now more than ever because they save lives and reduce the harms of drug use for people who are actively addicted to injectable drugs.”
In January Health Canada issued a two-year exemption to the Dr. Peter Centre in Vancouver, making it the second such exemption in Canada. At the Dr. Peter Centre supervised injection services are restricted to registered clients only.
Supervised injection sites such as Insite serve as a gateway to treatment, providing not only primary health care services—where clients can receive care for wound infections, tuberculosis and vaccinations for pneumonia and the flu—but also connecting clients to mental health workers and addictions counselors. Once clients become more engaged with the health care system, they are more likely to pursue detox, addiction counseling and addiction treatment services. Onsite, a 12-room detox facility, is located directly above Insite, and can immediately accommodate clients who are ready to access withdrawal management.
VCH is hoping to offer supervised injection at more health care facilities, where other addiction services are already offered. By better integrating and connecting services, VCH is aligning its continuum of care by supporting populations in the Downtown Eastside with seamless access to services including detox and primary health care—priorities in VCH’s Downtown Eastside Second Generation Health Strategy. As part of the new strategy, Insite began to open an hour earlier on Nov.1, 2015 to improve client outcomes by reducing wait times.
Stable access to supervised injections for people with injectable-drug addictions prevents infections, overdose deaths and the spread of disease, such as hepatitis C and HIV, while providing opportunities to engage with vulnerable populations in effective treatment including proper HIV care.
Insite opened in 2003 and since then more than two million injections have been carried out at the facility under the supervision of nurses. There have been no deaths from overdoses at Insite despite more than 1,500 overdose interventions; some of which have included full respiratory arrest. Currently, 600-800 clients per day visit the facility for supervised injections.
Insite is North America’s first legal supervised injection site. Vancouver Coastal Health provides funding, senior administrative and health care workers for the facility. PHS Community Services Society provides administrative and peer support services at Insite through contract with Vancouver Coastal Health.
For more information, visit the supervised consumption sites webpage.