Vancouver, BC – Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) is launching a pilot project that will see Insite, North America’s first sanctioned supervised injection site, open 24 hours a day on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday on the weeks that social assistance cheques are distributed. Insite will open round-the-clock Wednesday August 24th, Thursday August 25th and Friday August 26th. The pilot project will continue for up to six months, at which time its effectiveness will be evaluated.
“We’re seeing a dramatic increase in the number of people overdosing at Insite as well as overdose visits to emergency departments during welfare cheque week,” says Dr. Ron Joe, Associate Medical Director, Substance Use Services, Vancouver Coastal Health. “In response, we are expanding our hours to determine if this targeted intervention will prevent overdoses.”
From January to May 2016, VCH recorded an 80 percent increase in emergency department visits for opioid related overdoses during welfare cheque distribution week, compared to the previous week. Insite observed a 50 percent increase in overdoses during the same period, specifically, the Wednesday, Thursday and Friday of cheque week. There was also an increase in overdoses during the six hour period that Insite was closed each day, adding to the burden on emergency departments. “We don’t want people overdosing in an alley or at home when Insite is closed between 3 am and 9 am,” says Dr. Joe.” “If people are going to use illicit substances, it is better that they do so in a supervised environment.”
Despite more than three million injections and nearly five thousand overdose interventions, Insite hasn’t had a single overdose death since it opened in 2003.
The pilot project to extend the hours at Insite is part of a comprehensive response plan to prevent overdose, encourage safer drug use and provide treatment options for people with substance use disorders. This initiative supports the work of the newly formed Joint Task Force on Overdose Response.
VCH is responsible for the delivery of $3.4 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.