Pubdate: Thu, 21 Jul 2016
Source: Georgia Straight, The (CN BC)
Copyright: 2016 The Georgia Straight
Author: Travis Lupick
Page: 12


The City of Vancouver has long led the way on harm reduction. For more
than a decade now, its two supervised-injection sites have made it the
only jurisdiction in North America with facilities where addicts can
inject drugs under the watchful care of nurses. But the suburbs that
surround Vancouver have taken more cautious and conservative
approaches to drugs, declining to host safe-consumption sites of their

That's finally beginning to change. Fraser Health, the authority
responsible for care in communities from Burnaby to Hope in the Fraser
Valley, has revealed that it plans to open multiple sites where users
can inject heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine, and other drugs.

That doesn't mean a building like the Downtown Eastside's Insite is
going to open on the so-called Surrey Strip.

In a telephone interview, Dr. Victoria Lee, Fraser Health's chief
medical health officer, said the model they are pursuing will more
closely resemble Vancouver's lesser known consumption site, the Dr.
Peter Centre in the West End. There, a small row of tables where
members inject drugs is incorporated into a much larger health
facility that offers a range of services. (Vancouver Coastal Health
has said it plans to use the same cost-effective and inconspicuous
model for five new consumption sites it's planning for the region's
largest city.)

Lee said Fraser Health's plan has been underway since early 2016 but
took on a new sense of urgency over the July 15 weekend. From Friday
night to Monday morning, authorities recorded 43 overdoses in Surrey.
That compares to a weekend average of about 24. None were fatal, but
there were many close calls that required the administration of
naloxone, a drug that reverses the effects of opioids such as heroin.

According to the B.C. Coroners Service, overdose deaths in Surrey
increased from 44 in 2014 to 71 in 2015, and there have been 44 during
just the first six months of 2016. In Abbotsford, those numbers are
seven, 24, and 16. In Maple Ridge, they are 14, 26, and 15. In
Langley, they are 10, 10, and 13. In Burnaby, there were 11 fatal
overdoses in 2014, 16 in 2015, and 11 during the first six months of

On April 14, the province declared a public-health

Lee said it's too early to say which cities will host consumption
sites but added, "At this time, we are working and engaging with the
City of Surrey."

Asked if Fraser Health might also establish sites in jurisdictions
such as Burnaby and New Westminster, Lee replied: "We are engaging
more broadly on the comprehensive strategy and talking about
supervised-consumption services as an integral component of our
comprehensive services."

She said community consultation is ongoing. From there, the next step
will be to request exemptions from federal drug laws that
supervised-consumption sites require to operate legally.

Across all of B.C., if current trends prevail, there could be more
than 740 fatal overdoses by the end of 2016, up from 494 last year and
far above the previous all-time high of 400 recorded in 1998.

Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid more toxic than heroin, was involved in
31 percent of 2015 deaths, up from 25 percent in 2014 and 15 percent
in 2013.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Matt