Lack of safe injection site leading to growing number of overdoses in social service agency locations
It may be years before Vancouver Island is home to a safe injection site.
So many addicts are turning to public washrooms as an alternative.
A new report from the University of Victoria says there has to be a better way to monitor drug addicts, and assist them if they overdose.
As Mary Griffin reports, the news comes on the eve of International Overdose Awareness Day.
This is where many of Victoria’s intravenous drug users go to shoot up, according to the Society of Living Illicit Drug Users’ Darrin Murphy.
Public washrooms, in fast food restaurants.
“I lost two friends to like, to restaurant washrooms.
Was one A&W, one was in Nanaimo.
Guy just got out of jail, right, and it was a McDonald’s washroom.”
Murphy knows from personal experience how rough it is to overdose in a public space.
“I thought to myself there and then, how scary would that have been for my parents to find out or just be in this random washroom, and to end my life there is just so, undecent and inhumane.”
In April, B.C.’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Perry Kendall declared an emergency.
“This is why I’m declaring a public health emergency because it is an emergency, an urgent issue across the province.”
An influx of fentanyl and other deadly opiates on the street contributed to 36 overdose deaths in Victoria in the first six months of the year.
Provincially, that number is expected to climb to 800 by the of the year
Without a safe injection site in Victoria, addicts are going where they think they might be safe if they overdose.
The author of a report from UVic, “Every Washroom: De facto consumption sites in the epicenter of an overdose public health emergency”, says there is an urgent need for a safe injection site.
“We are not providing a safe places for people.
So, people are finding what they can, and that has been the washrooms and social service and housing agencies and shelters and such.
These are not safe places.
And that’s what we’re finding.”
At Our Place, Rachelle Cork says staff are seeing many more overdoses in the facilities’ washrooms.
“It can be quite a traumatic experience for staff, especially if not trained well, or you’ve never experienced it before.
your heart rate gets going, and you’re worried about this human being, and you know, you’re making the 9-1-1 call and involving other staff as well.”
With a growing epidemic of drug overdoses, the report is calling on government to open more supervised injection sites to save lives.
“You’ve known these people, and then to find them sitting on the toilet.
Like it’s just,you know, we’re not treating our citizens with respect, you know.
We need to provide health care to everyone.”