It’s another controversial step in efforts to stem the tide of death from overdoses on the Downtown Eastside.
Some new public housing buildings are incorporating shared “drug using rooms,” in which addicts are able to gather and use drugs without being alone, and at risk of a fatal overdose.
CEO of Atira Women’s Resource Society Janice Abbott says the move in their facilities is a public safety response to drug use that’s already occurring in the buildings.
“I want to be really careful – we’re not operating safe injection sites, we’re operating shared using rooms. I think there is a distinct difference. I think it is important to use the right language. We’ve freed up space where people who are already using in their own rooms can come together and use together.”
Health Minister Terry Lake says the move is about saving lives, though admits it could be viewed as sidestepping federal regulations.
“The overdose prevention sites, the sharing rooms, are ways of achieving the same objective. Are we skirting federal law? You could make that argument I guess, but we weren’t prepared to wait for changes to save lives.”
Lake adds the measures, like the new overdose prevention sites, are not meant as a permanent solution.
“And these, we hope will be temporary measures until we get approval for supervised consumption sites in all areas of the province.”
Abbot says a shared room for drug use eases stress on staff if tenants are using in one area of the building.
There were 215 overdose deaths in Vancouver, the lion’s share of the 914 drug-related fatalities in B.C. last year.