Clinic opens with emphasis on mental wellness
By Greg Waldock, Staff Writer
The City of Vancouver oversaw the July 29 opening of Powell Street Getaway, a new safe-injection site located in the Downtown Eastside.
The clinic, managed by the Lookout Emergency Aid Society, is only the second of its kind in Vancouver. It allows users to safely inject in a monitored space, and acts as a gateway for rehabilitation. It was established on a former mental health centre, highlighting the Society’s focus on the mental healthcare aspect of addiction, and “to help reduce that stigma that people face on a daily basis,” Executive Director Shayne Williams said to CBC.
The clinic is currently pushing for greater assistance for the mentally handicapped in the community and for permission to allow nasal and other forms of drug ingestion, as fentanyl emerges in other forms of opioids.
The push for safe injection sites in Vancouver emerged after several years of extremely high death rates due to unsafe use and overdoses from opioids, largely due to the presence of fentanyl in both street and prescription drugs. In 2017 alone, around 216 have died from overdoses and related issues.
Death rates are also high “in the North, in the Interior, [and] in Vancouver Island,” said Dr. Patricia Daly, Vancouver Coastal Health’s Chief Medical Officer, in an interview on CBC’s the Early Edition. “We are seeing deaths in all neighbourhoods.”
Daly also stressed the need for greater government focus of mental healthcare, echoing calls from many medical officials and law enforcement agencies for greater provincial funding, particularly for the Downtown East Side.
According to Vancouver Coastal Health, the clinic is open from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. and will have at least two harm reduction workers and a licenced nurse. Like other safe-injection sites around the world, it is equipped to deal with overdoses and acts as a place for addicts to seek mental health assistance.
Several other clinics and institutions around Vancouver and the rest of British Columbia are awaiting federal approval, which may take months or even years.