September 21, 2016

Locations revealed for two new supervised injection sites for Vancouver drug users

The two addresses that Vancouver Coastal Health has said could soon offer supervised injection services are 528 Powell Street and 330 Heatley Street (Google Maps)

For several years now, the regional authority that overseas health-care across the City of Vancouver has said it is working to open new supervised injection sites for intravenous drug users.

Now, Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) has finally shared two locations where it has proposed such facilities open in the near future. Both are in the Downtown Eastside.

The first is 330 Heatley Street, near the intersection of Cordova.

That’s the Heatley Integrated Health Centre, a new name for an existing VCH building that in the past has primarily offered services for people with a mental illness. There, injection booths will be integrated into existing infrastructure.

The second location is 528 Powell Street, between Jackson Avenue and Princess Avenue.

That building is owned by Lookout Emergency Aid Society, where they’ve operated a drop-in centre named LivingRoom for people with mental-health issues

VCH recently delivered a significant funding increase to LivingRoom. That came as part of a contract shuffle that will see another drop-in centre nearby, the Drug User Resource Centre at 412 East Cordova Street, forced to close its doors.

Speaking at Vancouver city hall this morning (September 21), VCH chief medical health officer Dr. Patricia Daly said federal applications required to open a supervised injection site should be completed before the end of next month.

She noted the health authority plans to open four new injection sites for drug users, though VCH is not prepared to reveal the locations of the other two at this time.

According to Daly, the supervised-injection services planned for 330 Heatley and 528 Powell could come online as soon as early-2017.

The application forms are required in accordance with federal legislation that says that in order to comply with drug laws, a supervised-injection site must receive an official exemption from certain provisions of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.

The new Liberal government has signalled it supports supervised-injection services as a method of harm reduction and so VCH is expected to receive the exemptions it is requesting from Health Canada.

North America’s first supervised-injection facility, Insite, will continue to operate 18 hours a day at 139 East Hastings Street, between Columbia and Main.

VCH plans to expand access to supervised-injection services partly in response to a sharp increase in the number of drug-overdose deaths observed across B.C.

Before 2015, the all-time high for illicit drug-overdose deaths in B.C. was set in 1998, when there were 400. In 2015, there were 494 fatal overdoses in the province. During the first eight months of 2016, there were 488, according to the B.C. Coroners Service. So far this year, fentanyl has been detected in about 60 percent of those deaths, up from 30 percent in 2015.

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