Pubdate: Thu, 28 Jan 2016
Source: Georgia Straight, The (CN BC)
Copyright: 2016 The Georgia Straight
Author: Travis Lupick


In 2015, there were more illicit-drug overdose deaths in B.C. than in
any other year on record.

A January report by the B.C. Coroners Service includes data going back
to 1989. It states that last year, 465 British Columbians died of an
illegal-drug overdose. The only other year that even comes close is
1998, when there were 400 overdose deaths, or 10 per 100,000 people
living in the province. In 2015, the rate was almost as high, at 9.9
per 100,000.

The 465 deaths mark a 27-percent increase from 2014. The rise was
steepest in the Fraser region, which saw a 50-percent increase from
the previous year.

In a telephone interview, Patricia Daly, chief medical health officer
for Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH), stressed that service providers
must respond with a multi-pronged approach that includes everything
from prevention to harm reduction.

On the latter, she said a change of government in Ottawa means VCH may
finally be able to implement a long-held plan to expand
supervised-injection services.

Daly said that although most people understand supervised injection as
it exists at the Downtown Eastside's famous Insite facility, that's
not the model VCH intends to follow.

"It's very costly; it takes a long time to build these big stand-alone
facilities like Insite, and there aren't many places in B.C. where you
have a very dense concentration of injection-drug users like the
Downtown Eastside," she explained. "But you do have people using drugs
all around the province."

Daly said VCH would prefer to integrate supervised-injection services
into existing clinics, similar to how the West End's Dr. Peter Centre
operates today and how the province's needle-exchange programs rolled
out in the 1990s.

She said it's too early to name possible locations. Daly also
cautioned that legislation left behind by the former federal
Conservative government makes supervised-injection programs "very
arduous" to implement. But she added that the Liberals' recognition of
harm reduction very likely means VCH's decentralized plan for
supervised-injection services will become a reality. (The Straight
first reported on this preferred model for an expansion of services in
June 2014 but it is only now that it looks to be getting off the ground.)

In the neighbouring suburbs and the Fraser Valley, Fraser Health
operates 12 hospitals. Tasleem Juma, a spokesperson for the
organization, said there are no plans for Fraser Health to roll out
supervised-injection services there. She noted, though, that the idea
has not been explicitly ruled out.