September 01, 2017

Clients at the Powell Street Getaway supervised consumption site can now be monitored while using via nasal and oral methods

SIS Powell Street Getaway

Vancouver, BC – Clients at the Powell Street Getaway supervised consumption site will be able use illegal substances through snorting or swallowing, as well as by injection, now that Health Canada has approved an application by Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH).

A supervised injection service opened at Powell Street Getaway July 28, 2017. Once it opened VCH staff applied to Health Canada for an additional exemption to allow nasal and oral consumption. 

“We know people dying of overdoses are not just injecting, and we are pleased that Health Canada has acknowledged the value of keeping people who ingest drugs in other ways safe too”, said B.C. Minister of Mental Health and Addictions Judy Darcy. “Through talking with people on the frontlines of the overdose crisis, I have become increasingly aware of where the gaps are, and this new exemption means we can save even more lives and help lessen stigma around other ways people use illegal substances.”  

“Oral and intranasal drug consumption carry a risk of overdose, but they are less risky than injection,” says Dr. Patricia Daly, chief medical health officer at VCH. ”It makes no sense to turn away people who choose to consume drugs in a safer manner, but who still require supervision.”

The Powell Street Getaway (528 Powell Street) is a drop-in centre for people living with mental health and substance use challenges, funded by VCH and managed by Lookout Housing + Health Society, that offers connections and access to health services, life skill opportunities, leisure activities, social functions and food programs.

Its supervised consumption service is staffed by two harm reduction workers and one licensed practical nurse who supervise clients and monitor for signs and symptoms of an overdose at the five booths, teach clients safer injection practices, and refer clients to other health care services such as substance use treatment and counselling. The existing injection booths can be used for all three forms of consumption.

“The recent approval of expanded consumption services is a very important step as we know that people have not only been dying from injecting drugs but consuming orally and inter-nasally as well,” says Shayne Williams, executive director, Lookout Housing + Health Society. “The Powell Street Getaway is the first resource in Vancouver with Health Canada approval to provide these expanded services.”

This is the first such exemption granted within Vancouver Coastal Health, and the second such exemption granted in Canada. Fraser Health recently received an exemption to allow oral and nasal substances at its two supervised consumption sites in Surrey. VCH will now be applying to Health Canada to allow oral and nasal supervision at Insite, and Dr. Peter Centre intends to do so as well. 

Supervised consumption is part of VCH's DTES Second Generation Strategy and one component of a comprehensive response to the provincial public health emergency that includes preventing overdoses, encouraging less harmful drug use, and providing treatment options for people with substance use disorders. 

The consumption service supports the work of the new Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions established in 2017 and the Joint Task Force on Overdose Response established in 2016. As part of the wide range of actions taken, partners across the health system continue to expand access to life-saving naloxone and opioid addiction medications and treatments such as Suboxone, open more overdose prevention sites, work with Health Canada on approvals to open additional supervised consumption sites and improve the system of substance use services.

VCH is responsible for the delivery of $3.3 billion in community, hospital and residential care to more than one million people in communities including Richmond, Vancouver, the North Shore, Sunshine Coast, Sea to Sky corridor, Powell River, Bella Bella and Bella Coola.

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