The B.C. government is partnering with Vancouver Coastal Health to open 38 new beds for women seeking help for substance abuse in the city's Downtown Eastside.

The spaces will be located in the Atira Women's Resources Society's Rice block building (404 Hawks Ave.) and will be available to patients starting this week.

"This project — even though it's not the solution — it does give me hope," said Bonnie Wilson, director of home support, complex rehab and supportive housing with Vancouver Coastal Health.

"We know that healthy strong women nurture each other, their families and their communities and I can't think of a time when we've needed that more."

Health Minister Terry Lake was at today's announcement at the building on Hawks Avenue.

"This is a great community space and in this community women will be able to receive the support they need and in turn support each other which is critical," said Lake.

Janice Abbott

Janice Abbott with the Atira Women's Resources Society said they've lost more women in recent months to overdose deaths than they have in 10 years. (Christer Waara)

Also announced today was the creation of a women's overdose prevention site. VCH is partnering with Atira to open a small site where women will be able to seek help for treatment or get access to sterile injection supplies.

The site will operate at 135 Dunlevy Street but there's no timeline for when it will open.

Overdose crisis affecting women too

Abbott said that in the past three months the society has had 11 women die of drug overdoses.

"That's more women than we've lost to overdose deaths in the last 10 years," said Abbott.

"I'm going to get a bit emotional because some of those women are women I knew well. Women we all knew well"

A total of 914 people died of a drug overdose in B.C. last year. Of that, 176 were women.

Lake was asked today about criticism the province has faced about not doing enough to battle the overdose crisis and whether more could be done.

Treatment bed

One of the 38 beds that will be available this week for women seeking substance-use treatment. (Christer Waara)

"We have to remember that there's no one answer to this. There's no one switch. So, we need to build a tool box and we have been building that toolbox in a way that no other jurisdiction in North America has," said Lake.

Lake said there are no plans at the moment to expand prescription heroin treatment or opioid agonist treatments, but it's currently looking to the B.C. Centre on Substance Use for guidance on that.

Province says it's on track for treatment beds

The 38 beds are part of the 500 promised by the B.C. government.

Lake said today there are currently 300 beds province-wide. By the end of January, he said, there would be 400 beds and the expectation is they will reach their goal by the end of March.

The Vancouver Coastal Health region has 131 of those beds.