British Columbia

Fraser Health wants supervised injection site in Surrey, but mayor hesitant

Forty-three overdoses were reported in Surrey since Friday, but Mayor Linda Hepner says she does not approve of a stand-alone supervised injection site in her city.

Linda Hepner pans stand-alone facility, says site in shelter or clinic maybe more "palatable"

A client of the Insite supervised injection site in Vancouver injects a drug. Fraser Health wants to expand supervised injection services, in some form, to Surrey after 43 overdoses were recorded over the weekend. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

Fraser Health Authority says they are pursuing an "aggressive" strategy to reduce overdoses in the Lower Mainland, including a possible supervised injection site in Surrey.

Forty-three overdoses have been reported in Surrey since Friday, but Mayor Linda Hepner says she does not approve of a stand-alone supervised injection site in her city.

"I'm not certain that in the current form that I know of, that that will get a lot of support," she said. "I think the best prevention is don't use drugs at all, and anyone who fails to heed that direction should have a narcan kit and not use street drugs alone."

Hepner says a consumption site in an existing facility like a homeless shelter or existing health facility might be more "palatable," although she did not know specific details of what that might look like.

She says she and council will be meeting with Fraser Health in the coming days to discuss ideas.

Surrey Mayor Linda Hepner says "the best prevention is don’t use drugs at all." (CBC)

Injection site part of larger plan

Fraser Health's plan also includes making the anti-overdose drug naloxone and opioid replacement drug Suboxone more available, increasing overdose awareness among drug users and working with municipalities and community groups on solutions.

But at a Monday news conference, Dr. Victoria Lee, chief medical health officer with Fraser Health, said supervised injection sites were essential.

"We do believe it is an important component of an overall strategy," she said. "We are very alarmed and concerned about what happened over the weekend."

Lee said Fraser Health is working with community partners to find "priority" locations for supervised injection services.

Dr. Victoria Lee is the chief medical health officer of Fraser Health. (CBC)

'It's long overdue in Surrey'

One community activist, Doug Elford, with the Newton Community Association, says it's "about time" there was a supervised injection site in the city.

"It's long overdue in Surrey," he said. "It's something council has really avoided … we obviously have our fair share of problems in Surrey."

Elford was critical of Hepner's apprehension approving such a site, saying people in his community need to move beyond simply "putting out fires and trying to keep people alive" as the overdose crisis continues.

Elford says the Whalley area, where at least 36 overdoses were recorded on the weekend, might make a good place for a supervised injection site, but notes his group has not formally discussed the issue and there have been no formal proposals for the community to consider.

With files from Kamil Karamali and Pierre Martineau