News / Vancouver

Demand for new injection sites remains highest in Downtown Eastside: VCH

The locations of the two new supervised injection sites Vancouver Coastal Health is applying for is based on demand, the authority says.

Vancouver Coastal Health chief medical health officer Dr. Patricia Daly.

Jennifer Gauthier/For Metro

Vancouver Coastal Health chief medical health officer Dr. Patricia Daly.

Even with Insite, demand for new supervised injection sites remains highest in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, Vancouver Coastal Health says.

The health authority announced this week it is preparing applications for two new supervised injection sites in that community in response to the British Columbia’s epidemic of overdose deaths.

Chief Medical Officer Patricia Daly hopes that eight more supervised consumption spaces – approximately half of Insite’s capacity – split between the DTES Mental Health and Substance Use drop-in centre (528 Powell St.) and the Heatley Community Health centre (330 Heatley St.) will be up and running early next year if approved by Health Canada.

“We’ve chosen the sites based on where we’re seeing the majority of overdose deaths occurring, where we know there is the most demand,” Daly told media on Thursday. “We’ve long heard from the community that we need to offer supervised injection services in additional locations aside from Insite. Even though those locations are within blocks of Insite … they meet a need we know exists in those neighbourhoods.”

Daly said VCH plans to apply for additional supervised injection sites, some outside the DTES, next year but didn’t want to delay the arduous application process any further for the first two sites when lives could be saved.

As of August, 488 people in British Columbia have died from accidental drug overdoses this year, the majority linked to the presence of fentanyl in their drugs.

Of the 532 calls where B.C. Ambulance Service responders administered naloxone – a drug that can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose – between April and August, 42 per cent were in the DTES, Daly said.

“We know that if people inject alone, particularly in a private residence, they are more likely to die because their overdose is not witnessed,” Daly said. “Part of our strategy is to offer these services in other locations and other neighbourhoods because people may not wish to travel all the way to Insite when they’re going through withdrawal and they need to inject drugs.”

VCH is also aiming to work closer with peer and neighbourhood groups to respond to overdoses that occur outside injection sites.

“Supervised injection sites will help one part of the population, but we don’t anticipate that every injection of every drug users will occurring in a supervised injection site,” she said. “It’s not our only strategy.”

VCH plans to formally file applications for the Powell and Heatley sites by the end of October, after conducting mandatory engagement with stakeholders in the neighbourhood.