Expand supervised sites beyond overseeing only injection drugs, advocates say

By The Canadian Press
October 28, 2016 - 2:55pm Updated: October 28, 2016 - 4:10pm

VANCOUVER — As the death toll from opioid-related overdoses continues to climb, harm reduction advocates are encouraging the government of British Columbia to expand the scope of its injection sites beyond supervising only intravenous drug use.

Sarah Blyth, a harm-reduction worker in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, says people with addictions should have a place to go where they can feel safe using, whether they snort, smoke or inject their drugs.

She says the situation has become far more dangerous since the arrival of the deadly opioid fentanyl, which B.C.’s coroners’ service says is responsible for about 60 per cent of the province’s more than 550 illicit-drug deaths so far this year.

Dr. Patricia Daly, chief medical officer with the Vancouver Coastal Health authority, says there has been discussion in the past about creating a supervised-smoking room, but that the focus has been on injection drugs because they pose a far the greatest health concern.

Daly says the concern at supervised facilities is not only with overdoses, but also with the transmission of blood-borne infections.

In Alberta, where opioids have also taken a lethal toll, the government announced on Thursday it would invest $230,000 to explore the possibility of opening a safe-consumption site.

The Canadian Press

Highland Valley warns of rocky road ahead