September 15, 2017

New overdose prevention site opens in Vancouver

Molson Overdose Prevention Site

Vancouver Coastal Health in partnership with PHS Community Services Society is expanding overdose prevention services in the Downtown Eastside. The Molson Overdose Prevention Site and Lab opened this month in the Molson Bank Building, 166 East Hastings St.

"Even though overdose prevention sites are a relatively new service, the folks who work at them are doing such critical work," said B.C. Minister of Mental Health and Addictions Judy Darcy. "There are approximately 700 visits every day to the overdose prevention sites in Vancouver, so we know there is a great need."

VCH provides clinical support and harm reduction supplies, while PHS manages the site day to day. The Molson site offers six booths where teams of trained staff and peers will monitor people who use illegal drugs. The new space also serves as a learning lab where regular training and workshops will be held to teach people how to administer naloxone and how to set up overdose prevention services. 

"Much of this service is being led by peers, people who have real-life experience with using substances," says Dr. Patricia Daly, Chief Medical Health Officer and Vice President, Public Health for Vancouver Coastal Health. "Peers can help relate to clients, which can help them feel more comfortable and encourage them to access other health services. Peers are playing such an important role in the overdose crisis."

"PHS is proud to be able to offer innovative new space and overdose prevention services at the Molson," said Jennifer Breakspear, Executive Director of PHS Community Services Society. "We are also excited to have a lab where we can offer workshops and training for the community, participants, peers and services so we can all remain informed and support each other through the overdose crisis. In addition, we will expand our overdose prevention services during peak afternoon and evening hours."

The Molson Overdose Prevention Site is open from 1 pm to 11 pm daily. The Molson site will help relieve pressure on the Maple and Overdose Prevention Society Trailer sites, which have had more than 120,000 visits since opening in December 2016. 

The new site is located in the Molson Bank Building, formerly known as the Roosevelt Hotel, where PHS provides non-profit housing for Downtown Eastside residents, many of whom have physical and mental health issues, social stigma, emotional trauma, substance dependence and other issues. 

Overdose prevention services are 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. 

The overdose prevention service supports the work of the new Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions established in 2017 and the Joint Task Force on Overdose Response established in 2016. As part of the wide range of actions taken, partners across the health system continue to expand access to life-saving naloxone and opioid addiction medications and treatments such as Suboxone, open more overdose prevention sites, work with Health Canada on approvals to open additional supervised consumption sites and improve the system of substance use services.

VCH is responsible for the delivery of $3.3 billion in community, hospital and residential care to more than one million people in communities including Richmond, Vancouver, the North Shore, Sunshine Coast, Sea to Sky corridor, Powell River, Bella Bella and Bella Coola.

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