West End clinic applies to become North America’s second legal supervised injection facility
Mayor Gregor Robertson, the Vancouver Police Department, and St. Paul’s Hospital are just three of many supporters who have thrown their weight behind an application that would see North America’s second legal supervised-injection facility operate in the city’s West End.
On January 28, the Dr. Peter AIDS Foundation and Vancouver Coastal Health filed a submission with Health Canada for an exemption from section 56 of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.
If approved, the Dr. Peter Centre on Comox Street will have the federal government’s permission to offer services like those provided at Insite in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.
In a telephone interview, Dr. Peter Centre executive director Maxine Davis said she’s confident that they've got their paperwork in order.
“It’s a very strong submission that strikes a balance between the health care that injection-drug users need and addressing public safety matters,” she told the Straight. “We have included letters of support that were actually quite gratifying to read.”
In addition to the mayor, the VPD, and St. Paul’s, Davis said the Dr. Peter Centre also collected letters of support from the West End Residents Association, the West End Business Improvement Association, Mole Hill Community Housing Society, and neighbourhood churches, among others.
A February 13 VCH media release quotes B.C. Health Minister Terry Lake and Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson voicing their support for the application.
"Supervised injection services both at the Dr. Peter Centre and Insite have become an indispensable public health resource in our community, preventing overdose deaths and the spread of disease,” said Robertson quoted in the release. “They have also been a vital component of Vancouver’s work to tackle addiction with prevention, treatment, and referrals to additional social and health services.”
Davis noted that Dr. Peter Centre actually has a long history providing supervised-injection care dating back to 2002.
She recalled a pair of nonfatal overdoses that occurred earlier that year that prompted staff to reach out to the College of Registered Nurses of British Columbia. “It galvanized us to look at how we might respond so that this didn’t happen while we were providing health care,” Davis said.
The CRNBC advised the Dr. Peter Centre that supervising injections fell within the scope of registered nursing practices and provisions of the B.C. Health Professions Act.
Since then, Davis continued, staff at the Dr. Peter centre have supervised an estimated 10,000 injections to some 150 patients. Just like with Insite, not one overdose death has occurred.
Spencer Chandra Herbert is NDP MLA for Vancouver-West End. In a telephone interview, he told the Straight that it’s telling the Dr. Peter Centre has provided supervised-injection services for 12 years with few people seeming to notice it’s even there.
“There has been zero detrimental impact in terms of public safety,” Chandra Herbert said. “I would argue that there is actually a positive impact towards public safety and that it actually makes the area safer.”