Surrey’s SafePoint injection site on 135A Street turned one year old on June 8 and to celebrate, Fraser Health has released a video highlighting one of the lives it helped turn around.
Curtis Carter, 52, visited the injection site 182 times in five months, and overdosed 24 times.
“I was one of their first clients,” said Carter in a release. “In fact, I was probably their ‘worst customer.’”
After countless visits, Carter went back into treatment and now works as a peer support worker at SafePoint four nights a week.
Raised in Victoria, Curtis said he made a life for himself in construction, becoming a senior consultant for an architectural firm in Las Vegas until he was involved in a minor car accident and started taking opioid painkillers. When the prescription for the pills soon ran out, he turned to the street to find more.
Carter said he sought treatment in Burnaby in early 2017, but relapsed.
“I spent that summer using on the street,” he said. “I was a mess.”
Carter said he got sober again last October, beginning suboxone treatment after overdosing and waking up at Surrey Memorial Hospital.
He has overdosed at least three dozen times that he’s aware of.
“SafePoint is the reason why I’m still on this planet,” he added.
Fraser Health says Carter is just one of 1,561 people who have used the site, run by Lookout Housing and Health Society. The safe injection site has seen 61,572 visits, with not a single death reported. Staff at the centre have reversed more than 620 overdoses in that time, according to the health authority.
The safe consumption site was the first of its kind in Fraser Health, and the first in North America outside of downtown Vancouver.
SafePoint sees an average of 200 visits per day, according to Fraser Health. It’s a place where drug users can inject drugs, but also consume them orally and nasally.
Fraser Health said the facility has also helped close to 1,400 people in Surrey connect to opioid antagonist treatments such as suboxone and methadone, since January 2017.
The creation of supervised consumption services in Surrey is part of Fraser Health’s strategy to address the overdose emergency in the region. “We know that using substances can have a negative impact on a person’s overall health,” said Shayne Williams, Lookout’s executive director. “When a person walks into SafePoint, they are welcomed without judgment and are supported to take small steps that can help them to lead a safer life.”
In 2017/18, Fraser Health says it spent approximately $576,000 to design, build and install equipment at SafePoint. The health authority allocated roughly $1.8 million in funding to run the site in 2018-19, and another $1.8 million in 2019-20. The funding has been part of the provincial government’s overdose response, says Fraser Health.
Since SafePoint’s opening, Fraser Health opened a second Surrey supervised consumption site located at Quibble Creek Sobering and Assessment Centre. On June 16, it will also have been open for one year.
Fraser Health says it invested approximately $376,000 to renovate that facility, the health authority added it also”enhanced staffing at Quibble Creek Sobering and Assessment Centre with an additional investment of approximately $193,000 in annual operational funding.”
Meantime, overdose deaths continue to rise in the City of Surrey. There have been 80 overdose deaths in Surrey this year as of April 30, according to the latest statistics from B.C.’s coroner. That’s an average of more than four a week in 2018 so far.
If the deaths continue at the same rate for the remainder of the year, Surrey is on track to record more than 230 fatal overdoses in 2018. That would be a significant jump from last year, when Surrey recorded 176 overdose deaths. The city saw 118 in 2016 and 76 in 2015. Surrey’s overdose deaths continue to account for a significant number of B.C.’s total overdose deaths. So far this year, 511 people have died of overdose across the province.