Dozens of Vancouver overdoses, as 24-hour supervised site opens
Supervised injection site opens doors 24 hours a day to stem overdoses blamed on 'cheque effect'
Tom Gordon is not one of the dozens of people who have overdosed in Vancouver over the past 24 hours, but he's no stranger to the experience.
Gordon said he survived a three-day coma after a cocaine and Fentanyl overdose last April.
The addict — who joked about having cocaine for breakfast — is convinced opening the supervised injection site 24 hours a day when social assistance cheques are delivered will save lives.
That same site alone saw 14 overdoses in the past day — double the usual number.
"They just started — I'm sure it will be a rousing success," said Gordon, an Insite regular who said he's been there more than "9983 times."
The 24-hour pilot project is set to run for six months.
The inaugural day of the opening was busy. Firefighters and paramedics scrambled to deal with a glut of calls in the wake of Wednesday cheque deliveries, known to fuel drug deaths.
"It's kind of like anyone else. You get a paycheque and there is a temptation to spend it quickly," said Insite manager Patrick Beattie.
It's unclear if any of the overdoses reported yesterday and overnight were fatal.
Deaths are known to spike — up to 40 per cent more than usual — when social assistance cheques are delivered, according to a study done at the B.C. Centre for Disease Control of "the cheque effect" which looked of coroner's data between the period of 2009 to 2013.
On an average day in Vancouver health officials told CBC they see three overdoses.
Yesterday's total of 14 was double the average number of incidents they see on social assistance cheque days, according to Vancouver Coastal Health authorities.
Vancouver is applying for five more supervised sites to help keep people safe and give them a place to find help and escape the stigma of addiction, a medical condition often seen as needing punishment.
"That's great news — excellent," said Michael Yam, a drug user who frequents the supervised injection site and often gets help from the nurse with the needle, plus first aid treatment for cuts and bruises.
Yam said he heads to Insite first when he gets his social assistance cheque, then after one shot, goes shopping for groceries.
"They take really good care of us," he said, lauding Insite for handing out Naloxone kits to users so they can help others who overdose.
With files from Sam Garvey, Natalie Clancy