SURREY — Health Canada has approved several safe consumption site applications, including two in Surrey and one in Vancouver.
The Surrey sites are scheduled to open in June.
One site in Surrey will be located at the 94A Street Quibble Creek Sobering Centre, and the second on 135A Street, to be run by Lookout Emergency Aid Society. The 135A Street location will be called “SafePoint” and will be next to the Front Room Drop-in.
Services at the sites will include the supervision of injection drugs, and Fraser Health is also seeking Health Canada approval for intra-nasal and oral substances – which would be a first in Canada.
Surrey Mayor Linda Hepner said the sites will “help save the lives of some of the most vulnerable people in our community.”
Asked if she’s heard opposition to the sites, Hepner replied she’s heard “varying opinions.”
“‘What are you doing supporting a habit?’ That kind of thing. But you really then have to say it’s a response to a crisis and ensuring that those services are available so people can move into a healthy lifestyle.”
CEO of the Downtown Surrey BIA Elizabeth Model said the board never took an official position on the proposed safe injection sites.
“It was going to go in there whether we opposed them or not,” Model noted. “What we think is most vital to everything is to monitor what’s happening in and around there. If there are mitigating circumstances or impacts on businesses, then following up on that as quickly as possible. That’s our concern.”
Fraser Health announced last December it was proposing the two sites for supervised consumption services in Surrey to help tackle the overdose epidemic that took the lives of 914 people in B.C. last year.
Both required Section 56 exemptions to allow them to operate, which Health Canada has now granted.
“We carefully selected both sites based on data analysis that indicated these areas have the highest rate of overdose deaths in the region,” said Fraser Health Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Victoria Lee.
Lee told the Now-Leader the sites are “critical components” of the overdose prevention response strategy in Surrey.
“It’s an important component, especially for people that are concerned about public drug usage, inappropriately discarded needles and overdoses and deaths that are occurring in public places. We have strong evidence that safe consumption services decreases those.”
Lee said opioid dependence “is a complex disease,” and stressed the importance of making services available in “a convenient and accessible manner.”
She noted both sites are near established services.
Shayne Williams, executive director for Lookout Emergency Aid Society, which will run the SafePoint location, said the site will not only save lives but “will help make meaningful connections with people seeking to access health care and other supports.”
The Quibble Creek location will provide supervised consumption services from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., seven days a week, says Fraser Health. The location on 135A Street will be open from 7 a.m. to 1 a.m.
Both locations will provide health-care workers with opportunities to connect people who use substances with health care and community services, and will provide treatment for opioid addiction (suboxone and methadone). Since services were enhanced at these locations in January, 237 people have started on their road to recovery (as of May 15), reports Fraser Health.