VANCOUVER, BC – For some, the decision to stop the cycle of substance use needs to be acted on immediately, or the opportunity is lost. Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) is opening a new clinic to catch people in that moment so they can walk in off the street, start treatment, and turn their lives around.
“Addiction is not a moral choice. It’s not a matter of will power,” said Health Minister Terry Lake. “It’s a medical condition that requires evidence-based treatments and compassion. As part of Vancouver Coastal’s Second Generation Strategy to improve the quality of life for people in the Downtown Eastside, people coming to the DTES Connections clinic will find both.”
“The new DTES Connections clinic will offer door-to-dose in less than two hours,” says Dr. Ron Joe, Associate Medical Director, VCH-Vancouver Addiction Services. “That means anyone can walk in, no appointment required, and start their life-changing road to recovery right away.”
The walk-in clinic will offer opioid replacement therapy, including methadone and Suboxone, which have an 80 per cent success rate. Physicians and pharmacists will be on-hand to give clients opioid replacement therapy and medication for other conditions that are prevalent in this population, such as HIV and psychiatric illnesses.
The care team also includes on-site nurses, social workers, community and financial liaison workers, and peers who have first-hand experience with street life and substance use. Peers like Rob Morgan, a former injection drug user, were instrumental as advisors during the planning process, to ensure the clinic truly meets patients’ needs.
“I was using with my friend and the next day I saw her get carried away in a body bag,” says Morgan. “It was then that I decided to quit, but the craving was so strong I needed to talk to someone at that very moment. You only have a small window of time when a user wants to quit, so having a clinic right in the Downtown Eastside that you can just walk into will help save so many people.”
The new clinic will treat 600 people annually, on top of the estimated 3,000 to 3,500 people throughout Vancouver currently being treated for opioid addiction through various other programs.
“Connections reduces the barriers for people on the Downtown Eastside to accessing care,” says added Dr. Joe. “Many people can’t get on treatment because of the way other programs work, like requiring appointments or requiring clients to be abstinent from substances. We created a program in a way that uniquely matches the patients’ lifestyles so there will be more chances of success.”
The program was created following extensive consultation with staff, physicians, clients and Downtown Eastside community stakeholders. It supports the work of the Downtown Eastside Second Generation Health Strategy, which aims to improve access and strengthen connections to health care, while at the same time improving the quality of care for vulnerable people living in the community.
Patients will go to the clinic daily for their treatment and after an average of three months, once they are stabilized, will be connected to follow-up care through other longer-term health services.
DTES Connections opens March 1 in the newly expanded BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS Hope to Health Research Centre at 623 Powell St., via an entrance in the alley.
VCH’s new DTES Connections clinic will complement the work of the Joint Task Force on Overdose Response established in 2016. As part of the response, law enforcement is working at all levels of government to stop the supply of toxic drugs, and health officials are working to address the immediate and longer-term health needs. To that end, B.C. is expanding access to life-saving naloxone, supervised consumption services, and opioid addiction treatment medications and services, as well as improving the effectiveness of addiction treatment and access to appropriate substance use supports.
VCH is responsible for the delivery of $3.2 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.
DTES Connections Clinic
Phone: (604) 675-3600