Two new street patrols have been launched to deal with the fentanyl overdose crisis on Vancouver's Downtown Eastside, Vancouver Coastal Health has confirmed.
The health agency announced on Friday one of the programs is an overdose prevention program developed by VANDU.
Teams of two people will patrol the neighbourhood with naloxone kits and also provide tips on harm reduction, collect discarded injection equipment, and respond to overdoses if required.
While the VANDU team will operate largely on foot, the second group will work the Downtown Eastside on bicycles.
Spikes on Bikes will be managed by PHS Community Services Society, and focus on needle recovery calls in the Downtown Eastside and Oppenheimer Park area. They will also carry nalaxone kits.
The bike program launched earlier this week and operates 12 hours per day, seven days per week.
Peers with 'lived experiences'
Dr. Mark Lysyshyn, medical health officer with Vancouver Coastal Health, says both programs are staffed by "peers with lived experience" that will be able to provide a bridge to other health resources, including Insite and the Downtown Community Health Centre.
"Our team understands what it's like to call an alley home and the struggle of abject poverty, exclusion and the very real threat of overdose death," said Coco Culbertson, a spokesperson with PHS Community Services.
Fentanyl, which is exponentially more potent than heroin, is behind a huge spike in overdose deaths across the country. The latest figures from the B.C. Coroners Service show 622 fatalities between Jan. 1 and Oct. 31 this year, in the province alone.