Vancouver Coastal Health is calling a three-day pilot project to keep the city’s supervised injection site open overnight during welfare week a success.
A recent study by the BC Centre for Disease Control showing a 40% boost in overdose deaths during cheque week prompted the move, which keeps Insite open 24-hours a day on “welfare Wednesday” and the two days afterward.
Last week was the first trial, and Coastal Health manager Neil Arao says the numbers indicate there’s strong demand.
In that time, Insite handled 23 overdoses, eight of them coming during the extra hours.
“Between those hours of three to nine AM, having about 100 visit it’s quite alarming that it’s still being accessed to that degree in those hours of the day.”
While Arao says it’s still early in the pilot, he has no doubt that the expansion is having an effect.
“The fact that we were able to intervene for those overdoses definitely saved lives.”
He adds he is expecting to see the number of drug users accessing the service during expanded hours climb in coming months, as word of mouth spreads about the service.
The high level of demand also has VCH looking at whether it’s worth expanding the idea to other nights.
“One of the things we’re also starting to look at is the number of visits and the number of overdoses that are reported on all the other different weeks throughout the month, to see if there is a need or a demand for additional hours.”
The pilot comes at a time of growing concern about the toxicity of drugs on the street.
A month of testing has discovered that 83% of the drugs brought into Insite, and 90% of the heroin, contained potentially deadly fentanyl.