VCH opens fifth overdose prevention site
Vancouver, BC – Vancouver Coastal Health has opened its fifth overdose prevention site to help save lives and prevent further harm to those at risk of overdose. The new site is located in a modified first aid trailer at 62 East Hastings Street. VCH is providing clinical support and harm reduction supplies, while PHS Community Services Society and its partners are ensuring the site is staffed 12 hours per day, seven days per week.
The site replaces a pop-up tent that opened in September. “We’re grateful for a warm, dry place, both for our volunteers and clients,” says Sarah Blyth, who organized the pop-up tent and is now coordinating the trailer. “We are trying to prevent people from using drugs alone, because using alone can lead to dying alone.”
The trailer was donated by EllisDon Construction and Boxx Modular Canada. “It’s important for EllisDon to support both our clients and the communities we do business in by giving back where we can,” says Ian Kerr, Director of Business Development, EllisDon Construction. VCH is grateful for the donation, and continues to work with various community partners to build resources to support those at risk of overdose and connect them to the care they need.
The five overdose prevention sites and deployment of the Mobile Medical Unit (MMU) at 58 West Hastings Street are in direct response to the increased need for support related to the current overdose crisis. Teams of trained staff at these sites are providing people who use illicit drugs with a safe space to be monitored. Staff are equipped with naloxone and appropriate training for overdose response. “The staff and volunteers at the overdose prevention sites and the mobile medical unit are saving lives,” says VCH Medical Health Officer Dr. Mark Lysyshyn. “We want to make sure we put overdose response and treatment services where people need them.” To date, no one has died at the five VCH overdose prevention sites, the Mobile Medical Unit or Insite, despite a record 755 overdose deaths in B.C between January and November 2016.
The overdose prevention sites support the work of the Joint Task Force on Overdose Response. Headed by Provincial Health Officer Dr. Perry Kendall and Director of Police Services Clayton Pecknold, the task force is providing expert leadership and advice to the Province on additional actions to prevent and respond to overdoses in British Columbia. As part of this response, law enforcement is working at all levels of government to intercept and block 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 and opioid addiction treatment medications and services, as well as improving the effectiveness of addiction treatment and access to appropriate substance use supports. In October, Vancouver Coastal Health submitted an application to Health Canada for an exemption under Section 56 of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act for two new supervised injection services in the Downtown Eastside.