There hasn’t been a single drug poisoning death at SafePoint
MORE than 300,000 visits from 3,533 people, and 2,845 drug poisonings reversed. Those are the statistics as Fraser Health’s first supervised consumption site, SafePoint, marks five years of operation on June 8.
Behind those numbers are people like Curtis Carter, who utilized the services at SafePoint 182 times and overdosed 24 times, and is now an outreach worker with the Surrey North Delta Assertive Community Treatment (ACT) Team.
“Without SafePoint, I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to move on in my life,” said Carter on Wednesday.
“Almost everyone in our province knows someone whose life has been touched by the poisoned drug crisis,” said Sheila Malcolmson, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions. “Supervised consumption sites like SafePoint in Fraser Health are an important piece in the full continuum of mental health and substance use care that we are building for people who need these life-saving services.”
SafePoint serves as a central place to connect people to services. Over the past five years, at least 3,688 clients received wound care, assessments or other health care services. Harm reduction education sessions drew 1,345 attendees and 552 people accepted referrals to other health care providers or social services. Harm reduction supplies and naloxone kits are available to all clients.
“When people are ready, SafePoint staff are there to support them, whether it’s making a connection to health care services, housing or the creation of a safe and welcoming space that builds trust,” says Sherif Amara, Director of Clinical Operations, Overdose Response and Vulnerable Populations, Fraser Health.
On average, SafePoint sees 196 visits per day. Clients can inject or consume substances orally or intra-nasally in an environment supervised by harm reduction workers and nurses trained to reverse drug poisonings. An outdoor inhalation tent is available on-site.
“We are reversing three times more drug poisonings than five years ago because of the increasingly toxic drug supply and the presence of benzodiazepines,” says Alpha Abinoja, a harm reduction supervisor with Lookout Housing and Health Society, which operates SafePoint in partnership with Fraser Health.
As the drug supply becomes increasingly toxic, Fraser Health is further supporting people to make informed decisions about their substance use with the expansion of drug-checking services. Two portable Fourier-Transform Infrared Spectrometer (FTIR) machines are in use at SafePoint and Starship Health Contact Centre Purpose Society in New Westminster.
FTIR testing can detect the chemical makeup of many substances, including opioids, stimulants and other psychoactive drugs. To date, most of the drug samples checked test positive for fentanyl and about 65 per cent of ‘Down’ (mixed drugs) contain benzodiazepines as well. Once technicians complete their training, a third FTIR machine will operate in the region in the coming months.
“Drug checking and witnessed consumption help people lead safer lives,” said Terry Brock, Director of Health, Fraser Region, Lookout Housing and Health Society. “The fact that there hasn’t been a single drug poisoning death at SafePoint in five years is a testament to the people who provide overdose prevention services without judgment, every day of the year. They truly are saving lives in our community.”
“My health care career started with SafePoint,” said Carter. “I wouldn’t be alive today without it.”