Vancouver's supervised injection site struggles with the rise of fentanyl

Welfare Wednesday in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside (DTES): monthly cheques have just landed. Fresh $50 and $20 bills are flashing around. In this neighbourhood, regular government cash injections see a spike in the open drug trade. More heroin, cocaine, crystal meth. More consumption, more overdoses, and lately, much more death.

Some of the activity takes place on the sidewalk beside Insite, Canada’s first supervised injection site (SIS), now in its 14th year of operation. Despite its controversies and a sense that illicit drug use in and around the DTES has never been more pervasive, many still consider Insite a model for harm reduction, a kind of centre of excellence for shooting up safely. It’s something that authorities in other Canadian cities seem eager to emulate.

And yet local health officials acknowledge that Insite, and its $3 million annual operating budget, doesn’t come close to cutting it any more.

Brian Hutchinson reports

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