Powell Street Getaway SIS opening: From Left: Dr Patricia Daly, Chief Medical Health Officer, VCH; Shayne Williams, ED, Lookout Society; Keir Macdonald, Deputy Executive Director, Lookout Society; Minister Judy Darcy, Mental Health and Addiction; Melanie Mark, MLA for Vancouver-Mount Pleasant and Minister of Advanced Education, Skills and Training; Paul Armon, Powell Street Getaway Manager.

1st supervised consumption service opens in VCH

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 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.

Two harm reduction workers and one licensed practical nurse 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.

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.

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