Vancouver, BC – Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) is opening a new supervised injection service in the Downtown Eastside to help stem the tide of the overdose crisis.
"Visiting the Powell Street Getaway today and meeting the dedicated and passionate front-line staff who work here, it's clear that this service will have a profound effect on the whole community," said Judy Darcy, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions. "Not only will it prevent overdose deaths, it will provide potentially life-changing opportunities to connect people to the mental health and addictions services they need."
Health Canada granted the exemption in May, pending an inspection of the facility. Health Canada completed the inspection this week. The new service will open Friday, July 28. The service will be open seven days a week from 8 am to 11 pm. Two harm reduction workers and one licensed practical nurse will be on shift to supervise and monitor for signs and symptoms of an overdose at the five booths, teach clients safer injection practices, and refer clients to other health care services such as substance use treatment and counselling.
"We know from research at Insite that supervised injection services prevent overdose deaths and help connect people to treatment, which is what is so badly needed right now," says Dr. Patricia Daly, Chief Medical Health Officer at VCH. "At Insite there were 214,898 visits last year with zero deaths. And staff treated 1,781 overdoses which equals 1,781 mothers, sons, and friends' lives saved. The Powell Street Getaway will be another place for people to access these life-saving services."
The service will be located in Powell Street Getaway (528 Powell Street), a drop-in centre for people living with mental health and substance use challenges, funded by VCH and managed by Lookout Emergency Aid Society. The facility offers a safe space for clients to learn life skills such as vocational training, nutrition and harm reduction, and access psychosocial rehabilitation programs. An overdose prevention site has been operating at this location since December 2016.
"Incorporating supervised injection into the care of clients who use illicit drugs helps prevent overdose deaths, and the spread of infections such as HIV and hepatitis C, while at the same time engaging vulnerable people in other health care services including mental health treatment and withdrawal management," says Laura Case, Chief Operating Officer, VCH-Vancouver Community. "Once clients become more engaged with the health care system, they are more likely to pursue detox, addiction counselling and addiction treatment services."
"We are excited to open the supervised injection site in the Powell Street Getaway. We know that supervised injection is a vital step in reducing the risk of overdose for some of the most marginalized people in our community. Having this supervised injection service embedded within the Powell Street Getaway offers opportunities for people to build trust with Lookout staff and make meaningful connections with treatment and other healthcare services," says Shayne Williams, Executive Director for Lookout Emergency Aid Society.
An exemption under Section 56 of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act is required from the Government of Canada to legally operate supervised injection and/or consumption services. Now that this has been granted, VCH will be applying for an amendment to allow nasal and oral consumption of substances at Powell Street Getaway. VCH has a second exemption application for a supervised injection service at the Heatley Integrated Health Centre (330 Heatley Street, Vancouver) that is still pending approval from Health Canada.
For more than a decade VCH has funded two other supervised injection services – at Insite and the Dr. Peter Centre.
Supervised injection is part of VCH's DTES Second Generation Strategy and one component of a comprehensive response to the provincial public health emergency that includes preventing overdoses, encouraging less harmful drug use, and providing treatment options for people with substance use disorders.
VCH's new supervised injection service supports the work of the Joint Task Force on Overdose Response established in 2016. As part of the wide range of actions taken, partners across the health system continue to expand access to life-saving naloxone and opioid addiction medications and treatments such as Suboxone, open more overdose prevention sites, work with Health Canada on approvals to open additional supervised consumption sites and improve the system of substance use services.
VCH is responsible for the delivery of $3.3 billion in community, hospital and residential care to more than one million people in communities including Richmond, Vancouver, the North Shore, Sunshine Coast, Sea to Sky corridor, Powell River, Bella Bella and Bella Coola.
Tiffany Akins, Communications Leader
Vancouver Coastal Health
Phone: (604) 708-5281
Cell: (604) 319-7530