Vancouver, BC – B.C.'s first overdose prevention site for women only is opening in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside through a partnership of Atira Women's Resource Society, the City of Vancouver, BC Women's Hospital + Health Centre, and Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH).
"The Downtown Eastside is home to some of British Columbia's most vulnerable women," said Dr. Patricia Daly, Chief Medical Health Officer at VCH. "We know that women, like those working in street level sex work, have some unique challenges accessing health services in the Downtown Eastside. It's more important than ever to support this vulnerable group so they can have access to life-saving services during this overdose crisis."
SisterSpace, at 135 Dunlevy Avenue, is home to the new service, where up to 15 women at a time can inject illicit substances and be monitored in a safe environment. The site is open daily from 6 a.m. to noon and from 6 p.m. to midnight.
"We've heard from some women in our community that they feel safer and more supported when they are able to access services in women-only settings. Some will altogether avoid places where they know certain men will be so this new women's-only option is critical," says Bonnie Wilson, Director, Home Complex Rehab and Supported Housing, and Lead for Women's Services, VCH. "Once women are away from situations where their safety is in jeopardy they can begin addressing their physical and emotional health needs."
"Our staff have been trained to administer Naloxone for the past four years," says Janice Abbott, CEO of Atira Women's Resource Society. "Opening SisterSpace to the community of women in the DTES seems like a natural extension of what we are already doing and allows all of us the privilege of being able to support even more women, and to create the space and opportunity for women to continue to support each other."
"The City is pleased to partner with Vancouver Coastal Health to fund Atira's women's only Overdose Prevention Site, which will immediately help save lives as Vancouver continues to be devastated by drug overdose deaths," says Mayor Gregor Robertson. "In the midst of the overdose crisis it's more important than ever to break the stigma of drug use and urgently scale up access to life-saving support and care for women who need it, while connecting them to life-saving harm reduction and vital services like detox, addictions counselling and treatment."
A Nurse Practitioner, from BC Women's, will provide primary care services such as chronic disease management, pregnancy testing, and screening and treatment for sexually transmitted infections.
"We're honoured to be a part of this partnership to bring a women-only space where women can feel safe. Women are then comfortable to access the primary care services they need to manage illnesses and prevent disease due to barriers such as stigma, violence, poverty and racism," says Edwina Houlihan, interim chief operating officer, BC Women's Hospital + Health Centre. "We hope the safe non-judgmental environment will empower women to get the support and care they need to lead healthy lives."
This new overdose prevention site is one of five available to clients in the Downtown Eastside. A map displaying their locations can be found at www.vch.ca/overdose.
As part of the Second Generation Strategy and in consultation with the community and women's organizations, this new overdose prevention service is one example of how VCH is beginning to fulfill a commitment to create greater access and stronger connections for women to health care in the Downtown Eastside.
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.
VCH's new women-only overdose prevention site 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 $3.4 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.
Tiffany Akins, Communications Leader
Vancouver Coastal Health
Phone: (604) 708-5281
Cell: (604) 319-7530