Submitted by Carrie Stefanson, senior consultant, Public Affairs

People in Maple Ridge who use substances will soon have access to a mobile overdose prevention site at 11666 Laity Street, on the grounds of Ridge Meadows Hospital.

Fraser Health is partnering with RainCity Housing to provide people with a safe and welcoming environment to consume their own substances witnessed by support workers and peer support workers who care about their security and well-being.

The Ridge Meadows Mobile Overdose Prevention Site will include a customized van with an outdoor covered area to accommodate the growing number of people who inhale or smoke substances. According to the BC Coroners Service, 65 per cent of people who have died of a toxic drug poisoning in 2023 had smoked substances, compared with 36 per cent in 2017.

"Overdose prevention sites are an essential part of keeping people alive and connecting them with care and supports,” said Jennifer Whiteside, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions. “This new service for people in Ridge Meadows will prevent overdose deaths and provide a direct link to the health care system for people with substance use and addictions challenges.”

The mobile overdose prevention site begins operations December 18 and will be open from 11:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. daily. In addition to providing a safe environment for people to have their substance use witnessed, staff can help clients navigate detox, withdrawal management and treatment options if they wish. They can also connect clients to Fraser Health’s Overdose Outreach Teams and Integrated Homelessness Action Response Teams. Harm reduction supplies including Take Home Naloxone Kits and training on how to use them are also available.

“Thirty-two people died of toxic drug poisonings in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows during the first eight months of this year, which speaks to the need for an overdose prevention site in this community,” says Dr. Cheryl Young, medical health officer for Maple Ridge. “We know that overdose prevention sites are effective in preventing overdose deaths, and we need to ensure people who use substances in Maple Ridge have access to these vital services. Having these spaces open is especially important given the recent provincial amendment to decriminalization that greatly limits where people can use their substances.”

With the addition of the new overdose prevention site in Maple Ridge, Fraser Health now supports 12 overdose prevention and supervised consumption sites in the region. There are dozens more locations in shelters and supportive housing where people can use substances in monitored settings.

It is critical that people have equitable and timely access to harm reduction and substance use support services in our region.  Through a broad continuum of hospital and community-based mental health and substance use services, Fraser Health supports people who need immediate care as well as connections to appropriate services and supports in their community.

As the drug supply becomes increasingly toxic, we are further helping people to make informed decisions about their substance use with drug-checking services. Portable Fourier-Transform Infrared Spectrometer (FTIR) machines are available at various locations in the region to also help people check their substances. FTIR testing can detect the chemical makeup of many substances, including opioids, stimulants and other psychoactive drugs.

Additionally, fentanyl test strips and harm reduction supplies are available at the new overdose prevention site and the Public Health Unit in Maple Ridge. The strips are small pieces of paper that can detect the presence of fentanyl in different kinds of drugs.

“RainCity’s Peer Services Department operates a number of overdose response sites throughout the lower mainland. The Department has worked extremely hard over the past 7+ years to offer overdose prevention services in welcoming, safe and responsive ways. The Drug Poisoning public health crisis has not abated and the innovation by peers within RainCity and beyond have been and continue to be a critical component of the response to this crisis, a crisis which demands much more from all of us.” says Catharine Hume, Co-Executive Director, RainCity Housing. "We are looking forward to working with partners in Maple Ridge over the coming months."

For more information and resources related to overdose prevention and response, please visit fraserhealth.ca/overdose.


comments powered by Disqus