Mobile Medical Unit brings hope, relief to B.C. overdose victims (Dr. Keith Ahamad)

The woman sits slouched in a black folding chair, slowly regaining her strength. She is recovering from her second overdose since being released from jail just four days earlier and physicians are watching her closely. She is crying.

The woman is at the Mobile Medical Unit (MMU), a satellite emergency room established in the Downtown Eastside in mid-December to help deal with the city’s surge in overdoses and relieve crowded emergency rooms. Instead of St. Paul’s Hospital, paramedics take patients to the expandable trailer parked on the former site of a homeless encampment, where they are seen immediately by physicians and nurses.

But the temporary facility, a legacy of the 2010 Winter Olympics, is proving to be more than just an overflow space where overdose victims are treated and released. Every patient brought in is presented with long-term treatment options they can start right away; on a particularly busy day in late December, half agreed.

Andrea Woo reports

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