Providence Health Care opens Vancouver's only safe injection site outside DTES
It’s the city’s only pop-up tent for safe injections located outside of the Downtown Eastside (DTES) and the number of people making use of it has doubled every week since it opened, according to Providence Health Care.
In a partnership between Vancouver Coastal Health and RainCity Housing, a new overdose prevention site (OPS) launched at St. Paul’s Hospital on May 7.
The site’s location means clients have easier access to treatment under a bright blue tent, off of the hospital’s Thurlow Street entrance. To date, some clients have already required a referral to the clinic, according to Providence.
Being used as a pilot project, the overdose prevention site’s goal is to reduce the number of people using drugs in bathrooms and under bushes on hospital grounds.
Drug users can inject using clean equipment under the supervision of trained professionals and have access to drug testing, the overdose-reversing naloxone and community support.
Because hospital staff can’t touch the narcotics, peer helpers are tasked with supervising clients, who are often not trusting of hospital settings, says Providence.
“This really is the next step in our overall strategy for addictions and dealing with the opioid crisis,” Scott Harrison, director for urban health, Indigenous health and substance use for Providence Health Care told Global News.
“We know from the work that’s been done the past two-and-a-half years that the problem is spreading. The West End and Granville corridors also need support and access to areas where people can use under supervision, and if they overdose, have that reversed.”
The site is open seven days a week beginning at 11 a.m. with a final visit at 10:30 p.m., serving many clients from the DTES and the west end.
“Data indicates that OPSs save lives. Existing Vancouver OPSs have facilitated over 130,000 visits and reversed over 1,000 overdose events since December 2016, all without a single fatality, according to PHS Community Services,” Providence Health Care spokesperson Ann Gibbon said in a news release.
“The lack of a service in the West End left many patients and visitors at St. Paul’s Hospital and nearby residents vulnerable and at risk of using at home.”
Harrison said this is a “pragmatic and practical approach to a problem that exists.”
– With files from Aaron McArthur