British Columbia

2 supervised drug consumption sites proposed for Surrey

The Fraser Health Authority is applying to open two supervised drug consumption sites in Surrey as part of its response to the overdose crisis.

Fraser Health is applying for two locations in Whalley

Fraser Health wants to open two supervised drug consumption sites in the Whalley area of Surrey. (Chris Corday/CBC)

The Fraser Health Authority is applying to open two supervised drug consumption sites in Surrey as part of its response to the overdose crisis. 

If approved, one facility will be located at the Quibble Creek Sobering and Assessment Centre near Surrey Memorial Hospital.

The other will be in the heart of the 135A Street strip, where drug use is rampant and overdoses are a regular occurrence.

"What's been alarming is with substances such as carfentanil circulating in our region, we have seen a high spike in terms of the number of overdose events in our emergency departments over the past two weeks," said Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Victoria Lee.

"It has been confirmed that one of our patients in our region had suffered from carfentanil, and we suspect that's circulating more broadly than just one patient."

Fraser Health will submit the first phase of its application to Health Canada early next month.

Lee says it's unclear how long the process will take.

'It's about time'

Advocates for drug users along 135A Street are thrilled with Fraser Health's announcement.

Surrey Area Network of Drug Users president Ron Moloughney has been calling for a supervised injection site in Whalley for years.

"It's about time," he said.

"I hear it day after day after day that people are dying from drug overdoses on fentanyl and carfentanil. It's definitely a necessity to have safe injection sites. We need them."

Surrey's mayor, who has given a lukewarm response whenever the idea has been floated in the past, says she believes the facilities will make a difference.

"I have been clear that we are not in favour of any stand-alone entity and that any such service must connect to a continuum of care that will give clients the opportunity for treatment, for education and for recovery services," Linda Hepner said.

"The two pilot locations that Fraser Health are proposing will do that."

Police response

As Fraser Health puts together its application, the city and Surrey RCMP are launching their own initiative to make 135A Street safer.

The centrepiece of their plan is the Surrey Outreach Team, which will consist of 12 RCMP officers and four bylaw officers who will be dedicated to the area.

Surrey RCMP Chief Supt. Dwayne McDonald says the team will be on the strip seven days a week, 24 hours a day

"The focus of this team will be assisting vulnerable people who frequent the area, as well as ensuring that others can live and operate their businesses safely."

"Each month, Surrey RCMP receive an average of 568 calls for service from the 135A area."

McDonald says the team will start their patrols Wednesday morning.