As Vancouver Coastal Health and the City of Vancouver push ahead with two more applications to Health Canada for supervised injection sites, The Fraser Health Authority says it’s moving forward with consultations for a site in Surrey.
Fraser Health’s Medical Health Officer Doctor Shovita Padhi says the pressure is on as the provincial overdose crisis escalates.
As of October, 555 people have died in B.C. from drug overdoses in 2016, more than in the entirety of 2015. Seventy one of them were in Surrey, the second highest in B.C., behind Vancouver.
“It’s the race against time right now and really making sure we are providing the best services,” says Padhi.
That said, a site is still a ways away, with the authority locked in consultation with key stakeholders, including the City of Surrey and the RCMP, along with resident and business associations.
Padhi says all stakeholders don’t have to all be on board, but it’s an opportunity to learn about the plan.
She was unable to give a timeline for the process but says it’s ‘a priority,’ and says the authority will decide whether or not to send an application to Health Canada once consultations wrap up.
Doug Elford with the Newton Community Association says there’s mixed feelings in the community at the prospect of a supervised consumption site.
“Many of us support an Insite-type facility because there is a desperate need for it, but other people in the community feel it would attract more [of that] element to Surrey, and people think we already have enough problems to deal with right now,” he said.
Elford says it would help if city Councillors were all on board.
“Council is very aware of the need for this, but they are very wary of showing any public perception of approval because it affects their chanced of getting re-elected,” he said.
He adds community members are pushing for a mental health facility like the former Riverview Hospital in Coquitlam.
In a statement to CKNW, Surrey mayor Linda Hepner says “The City of Surrey is working with Fraser Health on the matter.”
But Hepner stands clear that a safe consumption site cannot be a stand-alone facility.