Pubdate: Tue, 02 May 2017
Source: Province, The (CN BC)
Copyright: 2017 Postmedia Network Inc.
Author: Jennifer Saltman
Page: 4


Two locations designated for consumption have yet to materialize in
fentanyl-ravaged city

When Alexandra Sayers began living on 135A Street in Surrey a year
ago, she was "absolutely terrified" of needles or seeing someone
suffer a drug overdose.

Since then, the 21-year-old has had friends die from overdoses and
administered naloxone, which blocks or reverses the effect of opioids,
more than a dozen times.

"Now it's so regular that I can do it with my eyes blindfolded and
with one hand," she said. "It's on a regular basis that people are
overdosing. It's scary being out here."

B.C. is in the midst of an opioid overdose crisis, mostly due to the
introduction of fentanyl. According to the B.C. Coroners Service,
there were 98 overdose deaths in Fraser Health in the first three
months of 2017, 37 of which were in Surrey.

Only Vancouver has more overdose deaths than Surrey.

People who live on and around the two block stretch of 135A Street -
known as "The Strip" - along with some advocates feel like help has
been slow to come to Surrey.

They point to the fact that two locations were chosen for safe
consumption sites by Fraser Health in December, but the facilities
have not yet materialized.

"Here in Surrey, where homelessness has gone up by 50 per cent and
overdose deaths are the second highest in the province, the response
has been to initiate a new outreach team comprised of 12 police
officers and four bylaw officers," said Dave Diewert, from the
Alliance Against Displacement. "Where is the safe injection site that
was announced at the exact same time (as the outreach team)? It hasn't
appeared, but overdoses have continued."

Fraser Health submitted its final applications to Health Canada for
supervised consumption sites in Surrey in mid-February. The proposed
sites would be integrated into Quibble Creek Sobering and Assessment
Centre on 94A Street and on 135A Street in partnership with the
Lookout Emergency Aid Society.

The applications have not yet been approved. On April 12, Health
Canada requested additional information about site security,
operational procedures and key personnel.

Fraser Health spokesperson Tasleem Juma said the health authority
hopes to open the sites as soon as possible, and they're already
working on things like site preparation and training staff.

"Hopefully it'll be late spring, but again it depends on when Health
Canada approves the application," Juma said.

In the meantime, Lookout Emergency Aid Society is operating an
overdose-prevention site at the Parkway shelter on 135A Street. It's a
place where people can use drugs while being monitored by trained
staff, but it is not approved by Health Canada.

It opened in December as a one-table operation that was available only
to those staying at the shelter. However, the site was recently
expanded to three tables open to everyone for 16 hours a day. It's the
only overdose-prevention site in the area, while Vancouver has
numerous sites in the Downtown Eastside.

The site is funded by Fraser Health, which also provides outreach. The
city has not taken a position on the site, according to Terry
Waterhouse, the city's public safety director.

Keir Macdonald, Lookout's deputy executive director, said they're
seeing at least 50 people per day - more than at their Powell Street
Getaway site in Vancouver.

"We've known for quite a long time about the significant number of
overdoses that have been occurring in and around the 135A area," said
Macdonald. "We're not surprised people are making the most of (the
overdose-prevention site), but the uptake has probably been greater
than we suspected."

Odessa Steines, a 135A Street resident, described the site as small
and busy.

"It's not an actual safe injection site and it is overcrowded," she

Macdonald said the demand has already prompted Lookout to discuss
adding extra tables. He said the concern is balancing safety with
community need.

"We continue to evaluate," said Macdonald. "It seems there continues
to be demand for additional services."
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MAP posted-by: Matt