Insite is North America’s first legal supervised injection site. It opened in 2003 and is located in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, where there is a high number of long-term injection drug users. The facility operates under a Health Canada exemption from prosecution under federal drug laws. Insite operates on a harm-reduction model, which means it strives to decrease the adverse health, social and economic consequences of drug use without requiring abstinence from drug use.
Vancouver Coastal Health operates, and provides all the funding, senior administrative and health care workers at Insite. Vancouver Coastal Health contracts PHS Community Services Society to provide administrative and peer support services at Insite in a partnership relationship at the client access level.
Insite is accessible to illicit injection drug users who are not well connected to health care services. The facility provides a harm reduction program that is part of a continuum of care for people with substance use challenges who often have complex medical needs including severe mental illness, HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis C.
At Insite, clients develop relationships and build trust with the health care workers which makes clients more likely to pursue withdrawal management (detox), addiction counselling and other addiction recovery services.
Insite has injection booths where clients inject pre-obtained illicit drugs under the supervision of nurses and health care staff. Clean injection equipment such as syringes, cookers, filters, water and tourniquets are supplied. If an overdose occurs, the team, led by a nurse, are available to intervene immediately. Nurses also provide other health care services, like wound care and immunizations.
Insite and Onsite are wrap-around programs that exist in the same Hastings Street location.
When users are ready to access withdrawal management, they can be immediately accommodated at Onsite, where people can detox in 12 rooms with private bathrooms. Mental health workers, counsellors, nurses and doctors work together to help people stabilize and plan their next steps.
Once stabilized, clients can move to the 3rd floor transitional recovery housing for further recovery and connection to community support, treatment programs and housing.