The Province is opening new overdose “prevention sites” to respond to the opioid crisis..
Health Minister Terry Lake announced this week that two new overdose prevention sites had been set up in Vancouver and were up and running as of Thursday, with another two each in Victoria and Surrey that will follow later this month.
Additional sites throughout Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, and another in Victoria’s Rock Bay area will also follow, though specific addresses for those sites have not yet been announced.
All of the new sites are in locations where there have been a high number of overdoses. They are intended as an immediate response to the overdose crisis, as health authorities wait for supervised consumption sites to get approval.
At the overdose prevention sites, teams of trained staff will monitor a safe space for illicit drug users. The staff will carry overdose-preventing naloxone kits and be trained for overdose response.
Dr. Perry Kendall, a provincial health officer, says cold weather means drug users are at a much greater risk of overdose and hypothermia. Health authorities created the overdose prevention sites to combat that danger, while still not breaching the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act as they wait for supervised injection sites to get approval.
“I have recommended that health authorities work to make oversight and reversal of overdose more available as an emergency strategy in locations where we know injections and overdose risk already exist,” Kendall said.
“We are seeing an alarming increase in illicit drug overdose deaths and action is required at all levels to saves lives,” said Health Minister Terry Lake. “The overdose prevention sites will ensure that people have a place where they can be safely monitored and treated immediately if they overdose.”
Health authorities in the areas where the sites will go up are still working to apply for permanent supervised consumption services, which “will have supervision services integrated and embedded with other health and social services, including mental health and substance use services and referrals and peer support.”
Early next year the provincial government will release a new set of guidelines for healthcare professionals, outlining best practices for dealing with opioid addiction.