Pubdate: Tue, 28 Feb 2017
Source: Globe and Mail (Canada)
Copyright: 2017 The Globe and Mail Company
Author: Andrea Woo
Page: S2


The Health Minister has asked the Fraser Health CEO to look into
potential barriers for the supervised-consumption project

British Columbia's Health Minister has asked the chief executive
officer of the Fraser Health Authority to review the plans for two
"overdose-prevention sites" announced for Surrey after The Globe and
Mail reported they do not exist yet.

The Globe reported on Monday that rather than open the two sites, as
ordered by Health Minister Terry Lake in early December, the Fraser
Health Authority opted to expand services such as outreach and shelter
hours at existing facilities.

Mr. Lake said on Monday that he contacted Fraser Health president and
CEO Michael Marchbank that morning and asked that he look into
potential barriers.

"I want him to look at whether or not there could be a barrier for
people accessing [overdose-prevention services] and evaluate the
effectiveness of the current [harm-reduction] sites," the Health
Minister said.

"We know there are supervised consumption sites that are being applied
for, but until then, I think it's important that we make sure there
are no barriers to people in Surrey."

An overdose-prevention site is a place where people can use illicit
drugs while being monitored by staff or volunteers trained to
resuscitate them if they overdose. The province announced in December
it would open more than 20 such sites as a temporary, emergency
measure due to freezing temperatures and the province's unprecedented
number of overdose deaths while health authorities awaited federal
approval to open official supervised injection sites.

One was planned for Surrey's Quibble Creek Sobering and Assessment
Centre and another in a "mobile medical-support unit" on 135 A Street,
more commonly known as the Surrey Strip.

Victoria Lee, chief medical health officer for Fraser Health, said the
health authority instead enhanced services at the two locations, for
example, expanding shelter hours, stationing a mobile medical unit on
the Strip to respond to overdoses and hiring new staff members for a
shelter and drop-in centre.

Suspected overdoses in the Fraser Health region have decreased from
5.5 a day in December to 4.5 a day in February, Dr. Lee said,
suggesting these strategies are working.

But a person who picks up sterile supplies at one of the locations,
for example, would still have to use elsewhere.

Vancouver opened five overdose-prevention sites in December. Between
Dec. 8 and Jan. 22, they recorded more than 10,000 visits and 115
overdose reversals, according to Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH).

Mr. Lake made his comments to The Globe on Monday at the opening of
the Connections clinic in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside, a program
about five years in the making. It is one of few clinics where drug
users can access addiction treatment on demand; addictions physicians
emphasize that it is crucial to capture this population in the moment
they want help.

Ronald Joe, medical director for Connections, said the idea is to
operate a community clinic like a hospital, opening seven days a week
and for expanded hours. Clinic staff includes physicians, nurses,
pharmacists, counsellors, peer advisers and social workers.

"In my experience, there is a small window of opportunity when people
who are untreated in their addiction are open to obtaining treatment,"
he said. "This is what this site is about: It will welcome people on a
walk-in basis when they want to be treated. … We hope to provide a
comprehensive medical assessment when someone walks in, and provide
their first dose of Suboxone or methadone within the hour."

The clinic is projected to treat 600 people annually, on top of the
more than 3,000 people receiving opioid-addiction treatment through
other programs in Vancouver, according to VCH.
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