Vancouver, BC – Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) has received its annual exemption from Health Canada to operate Insite. The exemption, under section 56 of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, allows VCH to continue providing harm reduction services at the facility until March 31, 2016.
“Evidence of Insite’s benefit in Vancouver is clear, and the annual exemption means Insite can continue to be a valued part of health services in that city,” said Health Minister Terry Lake. “We thank Health Canada for their compassionate decision, for listening to the Province of BC and for understanding the value of Insite. The facility is an important component of our response to substance use and addiction and we continue to support supervised injection along with other harm reduction services.”
“VCH is committed to the continued operation of Insite, which has drastically improved health outcomes for both clients and the community over the past 12 years,” says VCH Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Patricia Daly. “We know Insite works. Thousands of overdose deaths have been prevented, the spread of infectious diseases like HIV and hepatitis C have been reduced, and clients can more easily connect to health services like detox and primary health care.”
Since September 2011, VCH has been required to apply for an annual exemption from Health Canada. However, legislation known as Bill C-2 (the Respect for Communities Act) that passed yesterday in the House of Commons, will make the process much more onerous, requiring volumes of information to be submitted to meet the 27 various conditions.
“VCH is troubled by the numerous conditions set out in the new legislation, which will make it much more difficult for Insite to apply for an exemption in the future, and near impossible for a new supervised injection site to receive exemption under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act,” says Dr. Daly.
Meanwhile, a year after the application was submitted, Health Canada is still considering the request to grant the Dr. Peter Centre an exemption under existing regulations, an application that VCH is supporting. Unlike Insite, supervised injection services are only for registered clients of the Dr. Peter Centre and not open to the public.
Insite first opened its doors in 2003 and has seen more than 1.8 million injections done at the facility under the supervision of nurses. There have been no overdose deaths at Insite despite more than 1,500 overdose interventions, some of which have included full respiratory arrest. Currently, 600-800 clients visit Insite daily for supervised injections. The facility is just one component in a range of harm reduction services offered by VCH and is an important part of a larger strategy to address complex and long-standing problems associated with addiction, disease, mental illness, homelessness and poverty.
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.
Anna Marie D’Angelo, Senior Media Relations Officer
Vancouver Coastal Health