Pubdate: Fri, 28 Jul 2017
Source: Vancouver Sun (CN BC)
Copyright: 2017 Postmedia Network Inc.
Author: Nick Eagland
Page: A2


With more than 200 people dead from drug overdoses in Vancouver
already this year, health officials hope the city's third federally
approved injection site will provide relief from a devastating public
health emergency.

On Friday, Powell Street Getaway begins operating its new
supervised-injection site seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m.,
after receiving an exemption from Health Canada in May.

It opens amid an illicit-drug overdose crisis that killed 640 people
in B.C. in the first five months of 2017, up from 347 during the same
period last year, according to the B.C. Coroners Service. Most
involved fentanyl poisoning.

The site is embedded in a building operated by the non-profit Lookout
Emergency Aid Society, just around the corner from Oppenheimer Park at
528 Powell St. It replaces one of 18 overdose-prevention sites that
opened in B.C. last winter following a ministerial order Dec. 9 in the
wake of a surge in drug deaths.

A pair of harm-reduction workers and a nurse there are equipped to
respond to overdoses as drug users inject themselves in one of five
stainless-steel booths using clean needles and other harm-reduction

Lookout's executive director Shayne Williams said the building -
previously the Living Room drop-in resource centre - has served as a
place for people living in nearby single-room occupancy hotels to
socialize while accessing resources that help them survive.

On Thursday, Judy Darcy, the minister in charge of the new Ministry of
Mental Health and Addictions, visited the site during a tour of Lower
Mainland harm reduction facilities where she met with frontline workers.

In becoming minister, Darcy has been mandated by Premier John Horgan
to form an immediate response to what she called the "most serious
public health emergency" faced by B.C. in decades.

"There is no limit to the suffering this has caused and there is no
limit to the kinds of families and the kinds of people who are
affected by this crisis," Darcy said.

Dr. Patricia Daly, chief medical health officer for Vancouver Coastal
Health authority, said recently the death toll has slowed, but added
it's too early to tell if the trend will continue.

Overdoses killed an estimated 215 people in Vancouver between Jan. 1
and mid-July this year, according to the city and police.

Daly said the new site is among the health authority's approaches to
ensuring the overdose crisis doesn't get worse.

The facility joins two other federally approved supervised-injection
sites in Vancouver, including Insite in the Downtown Eastside and the
Dr. Peter Centre near St. Paul's Hospital, both of which opened in

Insite had 215,000 visits by 8,000 people in 2016, with an average of
eight overdose interventions per day. No one died.

Two sites were also given approval in Surrey in May, including Safe
point on 135A Street and another at Quibble Creek Sobering and
Assessment Centre near Surrey Memorial Hospital.

Daly said there were challenges in getting exemptions for Powell
Street Getaway, but said federal Health Minister Jane Philpott is
addressing the cumbersome process.

Efforts to obtain exemptions for more sites had been blocked by the
previous federal Conservative government, which tried to shut down
Insite, but lost in the Supreme Court, and introduced legislation that
further hampered the application process.

Darcy said Horgan met with Philpott earlier this week and was
encouraged by the potential to collaborate on solutions to the crisis.

Powell Street Getaway's injection site will operate on a $680,000
annual budget and could eventually support more than 200 to 300 people
per day, Daly said.
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