News / Vancouver

Vancouver Coastal Health ready to apply for new supervised injection sites

Vancouver Coastal Health will apply for two new supervised injection sites within the month in response to B.C.’s overdose death crisis

An injection kit is shown at Insite, a safe injection facility in Vancouver, on Tuesday, May 6, 2008. A bad batch of heroin has resulted in 29 overdoses in two days at Vancouver's safe injection site.

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

An injection kit is shown at Insite, a safe injection facility in Vancouver, on Tuesday, May 6, 2008. A bad batch of heroin has resulted in 29 overdoses in two days at Vancouver's safe injection site.

Vancouver Coastal Health will apply for two new supervised injection sites soon in response to British Columbia’s overdose death crisis, city council heard Wednesday.

Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Patricia Daly said applications to Health Canada for new injection sites at the Downtown Eastside’s Mental Health and Addictions Drop-In Centre (operated by Lookout Emergency Aid Society) and the Heatley Community Health Centre, formerly the Strathcona Mental Health Clinic, (operated by VCH) will be filed within a month.

Officials hope the sites will help Vancouver combat a fentanyl-fueled overdose crisis killed 505 people in 2015 and 488 so far this year (as of the end of August) in the province.

As of July, Vancouver accounted for 211 of those deaths, though Daly said VCH has been able to stabilize the death rate while other cities continue to experience an increase in the number of overdose deaths.

Daly hopes the new sites, if approved, can open in early 2017.

“We’ll get our application into Health Canada next month,” she told Vancouver city council during an update on the fentanyl crisis. “As you know, it’s a fairly arduous process and I know people are frustrated it has taken this long. It requires us to come up with clinical plans for each site, criminal record checks going back 10 years for staff, site plans and we have to do community engagement for every single site.”

The buildings will also require renovations to provide the services, but Daly said those can’t begin until VCH get approval to move forward.

“Health Canada has indicated a willingness to workshop their way through the applications because it can take many months after we submit. We’ve waited many months and even longer to get approval [in the past], so we hope it will go quicker,” said Daly.   

Insite – which opened in 2003 – remains the only supervised injection site operating in Canada that is open to the public (there are two more sites in Vancouver but they only clients are able to use the services).

There has never been an overdose deaths at the facility since it opened.

It serves 600 to 800 clients daily, and recently began operating 24 hours a day, three days a month, when welfare cheques are distributed, after the health authority noticed a spike in overdoses during that period every month.

In the first month of expanded hours, Daly said Insite saw 100 additional visitors in those three days in August.