This service is aimed to help prevent patients from leaving BC Women’s units to use substances in unsafe environments, at a time when an increasingly unpredictable and toxic drug supply is taking thousands of lives each year.
The mobile OPS is a six-month trial, operated by PHS Community Services Society (PHS) and managed in partnership with Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH). PHS staff are trained to recognize and respond to an overdose event. This enables a rapid response, which helps to prevent brain injury and death. This mobile OPS will provide people with accessible harm reduction services, including harm reduction supplies, connection to community resources, and a witnessed consumption space.
Vancouver has the highest illicit drug toxicity deaths per capita than any other community in B.C. According to the BC Coroners Service, illicit drug toxicity deaths have increased more than eight-fold in the past 10 years in our province. Approximately 22 per cent of the 2,272 deaths last year were women. Indigenous women are dying at nearly 10 times the rate of other B.C. women.
Women can experience significant barriers to accessing overdose prevention services which can lead to using alone, hiding substance use, using in unsafe environments, and an increased risk of harm or death from the toxic drug supply.
This is a six month trial, after which time, VCH will determine the future location of this mobile service. This will be based on several factors, including service uptake at BC Women’s, and substance use service needs across other Vancouver communities.
The van and inhalation tent are located near the bike lane entrance along Heather Street at West 29th Avenue. The service has capacity for six clients at a time. It will be open from 1 p.m. to 7 p.m. every day.
VCH funds a range of harm reduction sites across Vancouver. To find your nearest overdose prevention site, visit the VCH website. All services are free and open to all members of the public.
A mobile overdose prevention site pilot operated from March 16 to September 15, 2023 at BC Women’s Hospital + Health Centre. The data and feedback collected through this pilot are currently being evaluated. The evaluation is done in partnership with those who ran and used the services and it includes a broader engagement with people with lived and living experience. The evaluation will inform the approach to harm reduction supports and services across campus to better serve the needs of patients and staff.
Photos of the OPS at BC Women's: