British Columbia

New on-demand addiction treatment clinic opens on Downtown Eastside

A new, on-demand treatment centre that hopes to provide more timely help for those struggling with illicit drug addiction has opened on Vancouver's Downtown Eastside.

The Connections clinic was unveiled Monday

The centre has an in-house pharmacy, as well as access to support from social workers. (Jonathan Hayward/CP)

A new, on-demand treatment centre that hopes to provide more timely help for those struggling with illicit drug addiction has opened on Vancouver's Downtown Eastside.

The Connections clinic will have patients assessed and receiving their first doses of opioid-replacement therapy within hours of check-in.

The centre doesn't require an appointment.

Dr. Ron Joe, who works with Vancouver Coastal Health, said many other treatment programs will only take patients who have already given up drugs on their own. 

B.C. Health Minister Terry Lake addresses reporters at the unveiling on Monday. Former heroin user Rob Morgan, left, also spoke at the event. (Rhianna Schmunk/CBC)

"In my experience, there's a small window of opportunity when people who are untreated in their addiction are open to obtaining treatment, and this is what this site is about,'' Joe said of the new centre, located on Powell Street near Oppenheimer Park.

Provincial Health Minister Terry Lake said the program relies on "evidence-based" treatment methods and that patients will be treated with methadone or suboxone.

"We know we need to approach this type of complex issue in a different way,'' Lake told reporters on Monday. "It's not like fixing a broken leg. It requires culturally appropriate, culturally safe approaches, but it also requires compassion and people coming to the Connections clinic here will find all of that.''

Joe said the replacement therapies, taken orally, have a success rate of about 80 per cent. Users won't be undergoing injectable treatments because the new centre doesn't have the appropriate rooms.

A sign for the on-demand addictions treatment centre is pictured in an alley outside the building, located on Powell Street. (Jonathan Hayward/CP)

Former heroin user Rob Morgan will be working at the clinic as a peer adviser. He said he's "happy" to see the clinic open, five years after its inception.

"I know people that have been waiting for Connections to open so they can come in and get off their addiction,'' said Morgan, who said he's lost friends to drug addiction in the past.

In a statement, Vancouver Coastal Health said a research centre will operate on the floor above the clinic to study best practices that could eventually be applied at other treatment spaces.

The Connections clinic is expected to see about 600 people every year.

Last year in B.C., 914 people died from illicit drug overdoses.

The Downtown Eastside has been one of the hardest-hit areas in an illicit drug overdose crisis that saw more than 900 people die in B.C. last year. (Darryl Dyck/CP)

With files from CBC's Rhianna Schmunk