A new overdose prevention site (OPS) in Squamish has been opened in response to the increasing number of overdoses in this community.
The new site is now open to the public at the former Helping Hands shelter on Third Avenue.
Vancouver Coastal Health, Squamish Helping Hands, and the Sea to Sky Community Action Team are partners for this new site.
In 2020, BC’s Coroners Service reported 1,716 overdose deaths in the province.
In the North Shore/Coast Garibaldi (which includes Squamish), there were 46 deaths in 2020, compared to 26 in all of 2019.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, many people at risk of overdose may choose to use drugs alone in private residences, increasing their risk of death, VCH said.
“As a community, we have an imperative to provide basic lifesaving programs and services to our most vulnerable citizens, and right now, because the drug supply is profoundly toxic, this includes anyone who uses drugs,” said Maureen Mackell, Executive Director of Squamish Helping Hands Society.
“This means even recreational users’ lives are at risk. For this reason, it is vital that people do not feel afraid to access harm reduction services in their community. This includes simply having their drugs checked for dangerous toxic additives to using in a supervised environment.”
VCH will provide education, clinical support, and harm reduction supplies, while Helping Hands will manage the day-to-day operations of the OPS.
VCH and Squamish Helping Hands Society are committed to ensuring that the site operates as a good neighbour to local residents and businesses, and are available to address any questions or concerns that arise.