Surrey’s SafePoint injection site on 135A Street turns one year old on June 8 and to celebrate, Fraser Health has released a video highlighting just one of the lives it helped turn around in that time.
In a release, Fraser Health shared the story of 52-year-old Curtis Carter, a man who visited the injection site 182 times in five months, and overdosed 24 times.
“I was one of their first clients,” said Carter in a release. “In fact, I was probably their ‘worst customer.’”
After countless visits, Carter went back into treatment and now works as a peer support worker at SafePoint four nights a week.
Raised in Victoria, Curtis said he made a life for himself in construction, becoming a senior consultant for an architectural firm in Las Vegas until he was involved in a minor car accident and started taking opioid painkillers.
Whem the prescription for the pills soon ran out, he turned to the street to find more.
Carter said he sought treatment in Burnaby in early 2017, but relapsed.
“I spent that summer using on the street,” he said. “I was a mess.”
Carter said he got sober again last October, beginning suboxone treatment after overdosing and waking up at Surrey Memorial Hospital.
He has overdosed at least three dozen times that he’s aware of, and added: “SafePoint is the reason why I’m still on this planet.”
Fraser Health says Carter is just one of 1,561 people who have used the site, run by Lookout Emergency Aid Society. The safe injection site has seen 61,572 visits, with not a single death reported.
Staff at the centre have reversed more than 620 overdoses in that time, according to the health authority.
The safe consumption site was the first of its kind in Fraser Health, and the first in North America outside of downtown Vancouver.
SafePoint sees an average of 200 visits per day, according to Fraser Health. It’s a place where drug users can inject drugs, but also consume them orally and nasally.
Fraser Health said the facility has also helped close to 1,400 people in Surrey connect to opioid antagonist treatments such as suboxone and methadone, since January 2017.
“I personally visited SafePoint last summer where I watched as staff reversed not one but two overdoses at the same time. Their compassion and commitment was truly inspiring and this was proof of the need for supervised consumption services as part of our strategy to address the overdose crisis,” said Minister of Mental Health and Addictions Judy Darcy in a release. “By providing these supports, and helping people access first-line treatment for opioid addiction, SafePoint can save lives and be the catalyst for people to take the first step forward in their recovery journey.”
The creation of supervised consumption services in Surrey is part of Fraser Health’s strategy to address the overdose emergency in the region. A total of 511 people have died from fatal overdoses in B.C. this year, according to the latest numbers released by the provincial coroners service on June 7.
Vancouver, Surrey and Victoria continue to be the most impacted, making up 50 per cent of all overdose deaths.
Other Fraser Health initiatives to help address the crisis have included handing out more than 18,000 naloxone kids to reverse overdoses; establishing an Intensive Case Management team to help heal and house people with severe substance use disorders and mental illness; and creating a First Response Youth Addictions Outreach Team that provides addiction outreach services and group programming to high risk, street entrenched youth under the age of 19.
“We know that using substances can have a negative impact on a person’s overall health,” said Shayne Williams, Executive Director for Lookout Housing and Health Society. “When a person walks into SafePoint, they are welcomed without judgment and are supported to take small steps that can help them to lead a safer life. Every overdose we reverse or prevent is another life saved in our community.”
Since SafePoint’s opening, Fraser Health opened a second Surrey supervised consumption site located at Quibble Creek Sobering and Assessment Centre. On June 16, it will also have been open for one year.
To read more about Fraser Health’s overdose prevention strategy, visit fraserhealth.ca/overdose.