Vancouver West End clinic could become North America's second legal supervised drug injection site

Insite Vancouver Coastal Health

Vancouver Coastal Health and the Dr. Peter AIDS Foundation announced that they have submitted a formal application to Health Canada for an exemption from federal drug laws to allow the Dr. Peter Centre to continue providing supervised injection services for their clients admitted for care.

The Dr. Peter AIDS Foundation operates the Dr. Peter Centre, an internationally recognized health care facility located in Vancouver, which specializes in providing care for people living with HIV who also face poverty, homelessness and mental health and addiction issues. Two non-fatal overdoses prompted the centre to integrate supervised injection service into the centre’s registered nursing practice 12 years ago – the clients had been hiding their drug use from staff. The exemption would apply to staff and registered clients of the centre.

“Research shows that Insite, where people can inject drugs under the supervision of nurses, saves lives and reduces the risk of infectious diseases such as HIV and hepatitis C. This contributes not only to improved health outcomes for participants, but also to the protection of the public and the promotion of important public health objectives,” said VCH Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Patricia Daly. “The Dr. Peter Centre has embedded this approach in their specialized nursing care and day health program, so we expect similar outcomes to Insite, such as preventing any overdose deaths.”

A decision by the Supreme Court of Canada in 2011 required the federal government to grant a similar exemption and allowed for Insite’s continued operation. The court ruled that Insite delivered health benefits without any negative impacts on the community.

“This application addresses the Supreme Court’s recommendations and fulfills all requirements for supervised injection services outlined by the Government of British Columbia,” said Dr. Daly.

Supervised injection helps to build a more open, trusting relationship between nurse and client that can increase the likelihood participants will take advantage of counselling and addiction treatment. As many as 63 per cent of the Dr. Peter Centre’s supervised injection clients have received addiction counselling and one-third have been referred to withdrawal management or longer-term treatment programs.

“Incorporating supervised injection into nursing services at the Dr. Peter Centre takes people off the street and into health care – it prevents infections, prevents overdose deaths and prevents the spread of disease all while engaging vulnerable people in effective HIV treatment,” said Maxine Davis, executive director, Dr. Peter AIDS Foundation.

The service is officially endorsed and supported by the Government of B.C., City of Vancouver and numerous community organizations.

“The Dr. Peter Centre provides a variety of effective care and treatment services for those living with HIV/AIDS including access to supervised injections,” said Minister of Health Terry Lake. “Our government is committed to providing the best evidence-based support and care for British Columbians with substance use problems and addictions and we support Vancouver Coastal Health and the Dr. Peter Centre in their application.”

“As the Mayor of Vancouver I am strongly supportive of the Dr. Peter Centre being granted an exemption and continuing to provide supervised injection services for many of our region’s most vulnerable residents,” said Mayor Gregor Robertson. “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. 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.”

VCH is responsible for the delivery of $3 billion in community, hospital and residential care to more than one million people in communities including Richmond, Vancouver, the North Shore, Sunshine Coast, Sea to Sky corridor, Powell River, Bella Bella and Bella Coola.

The Dr. Peter AIDS Foundation, with funding from VCH and other organizations, operates the Dr. Peter Centre which provides support to some of British Columbia’s most vulnerable citizens who face poverty, homelessness, and mental health and addiction issues in addition to HIV/AIDS. The Centre uses an integrated model to engage individuals in their health care with a specific goal of improved adherence to HIV treatment and overall improved health.

If the application is approved, this will expand on Vancouver’s harm reduction programs which famously include the opening of the Downtown Eastside’s InSite in 2003 and the Portland Hotel Society’s recent installation of two crack pipe vending machines at its facilities.

Image: Vancouver Coastal Health

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  • Danielle Bauer

    Let’s give this some thought. This is DIRECTLY across from an elementary school and park in the densest residential neighbourhood in the province. Not to be a NIMBY’ist but this cannot be a good idea. Curious what others think.

  • Ryne

    Completely and totally against it. I do not want that activity where i live. Why do we make it easy for these people. They bring our city down and cost us so much to maintain them. Use the money for schools our the facility for seniors and children. I’m done catering to them. If these programs worked, wouldn’t we have less addicts here? Keep them away from my neighbourhood.

  • Bob Dobalina

    Guess you didn’t read the article. That location has been giving safe injections for 12 years and “your” neighbourhood continues to be just fine.

  • Bob Dobalina

    If you read the article, this has been going on for 12 years with no problem. The kneejerk reaction you had makes little sense within that context.

  • Brycon Slaughter Casey

    I live in the west end and NO

    Don’t build this in the west end, this will only increase crime in my neighbourhood.

  • Reality

    These programs don’t “save lives” as the way it describes. Sure, they might extend the quantity of someone’s life but not the quality. What is the success rate of these programs turning addicts into working and contributing members of society? Not very high given the investment by the tax dollars.
    This is really a matter of what costs the tax payers more? A) The cost of health care to fight HIV, HepB, HepC, endocarditis, and other complications associated with injection use or B) The cost of these programs plus all other social support programs these people most likely live off the rest of their lives
    As usual, this is a case of people (Bob Dobalina) having NO idea what they are talking about. Most Vancouverites have no experience with the DTES and drug use, except reading about it from their computers in their warm houses or driving down Hastings in their car staring at the people.

  • Susan Craigie

    There is no school there. Plus it has been in operation for longer than Insite – 12 years. The fact that you didn’t know about it is proof of both is’t effectiveness and lack of harm to the community.

  • Leon Williams

    There has been numerous studies showing these get people off drugs. That’s loads more than your conservative rhetoric has done.

  • Leon Williams

    Yeah, let’s give it though. You want them doing drugs on the school field?

  • Danielle Bauer

    There is in fact a school there, Lord Robert’s Annex School, directly within Nelson Park.

  • Danielle Bauer

    It has not actually been safe. I live kitty-corner to the centre and see the goings on with my own eyes. I’ve been here for 7 years. Daily, there are addicts roaming the street and park, screaming and convulsing, swearing at the top of their lungs. This happens day and night. My heart breaks for these poor souls but I am looking to leave the neighbourhood because it makes it unsafe and unliveable. If this activity increased at all, I’d be very concerned for the neighbourhood. This really isn’t a debate over quality of care, its a red herring. If we were serious about these issues, we’d put funding back into mental health care including support for persons fighting addiction.