Vancouver, BC – Driving through the Downtown Eastside you’ll notice more men than women lined up to access services. Yet nearly 40 percent of the residents of the Downtown Eastside are women, many of them struggling to raise families, overcome substance use problems or pay their bills.
“The Downtown Eastside is home to some of British Columbia’s most vulnerable women,” said Health Minister Terry Lake. “By expanding access to services for women in this community, we can help reduce barriers to wellness and increase access to supports that will help improve their health.”
“We know that women, especially women who have experienced trauma or are vulnerable due to problematic substance use and or mental health issues have some unique challenges accessing appropriate health services in the Downtown Eastside, and we want to change that,” says Laura Case, Chief Operating Officer, Vancouver Community, Vancouver Coastal Health.
As part of the Second Generation Strategy and in consultation with the community and women’s organizations, VCH is beginning to fulfill a commitment to create greater access and stronger connections for women to health care in the Downtown Eastside. Several new services will be implemented over the coming year.
Vancouver Coastal Health is moving forward on a proposal for women’s only supervised injection services. The vision is to partner with a community service provider to create a small site that is street level, accessible, and embedded within other community-based supportive women’s services.
“Although Insite provides injection services for both men and women – and 27 per cent of the clients of Insite are women – some vulnerable women feel safer and more supported when they are able to access services in women-only settings,” says Bonnie Wilson, Director, Vancouver Coastal Health. “Our goal is to create a safe and supported environment around substance use and harm reduction education.”
Once a location is identified, VCH will submit an application to Health Canada. This initiative is part of VCH’s larger harm reduction and overdose response strategy and compliments the work of Joint Task Force on Overdose Response.
A multidisciplinary, integrated outreach team will serve the most vulnerable, disenfranchised women of the Downtown Eastside. The ICMT will consist of outreach nurses, clinicians, a team leader and a peer support worker. The ICMT will link clients to other services and supports within the broader system, such as primary care, substance use treatment, housing, income assistance, parenting programs, and employment support.
The Women’s ICMT was made possible through a $3 million donation to the VGH and UBC Hospital Foundation.
A specially equipped van will be used by the Women’s Intensive Case Management Team to connect with marginalized women who are less likely to engage with traditional health centres. This “pop-up health shop” will be agile enough to move as women move, allowing health care teams to provide services at parks and shelters in the Downtown Eastside. It’s anticipated the van will be operational by the spring of 2017.
Vancouver Coastal Health 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.
VGH & UBC Hospital Foundation is Vancouver Coastal Health's primary philanthropic partner, raising funds for specialized adult health services and research for all British Columbians. The Foundation partners with donors to drive innovation and sustainable health care at VGH & UBC Hospital, GF Strong Rehabilitation Centre, Vancouver Coastal Health Research Institute and Vancouver community health services.
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Vancouver Coastal Health
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