Richmond City Council voted Feb. 5 to ask Vancouver Coastal Health Authority (VCH) to consider a supervised consumption site for people who use drugs and who suffer from substance use disorder. This site would be located at Richmond Hospital.
Richmond City Council has no control over VCH and the decision on whether to open a supervised consumption site is entirely theirs. The role of city council is to express its concern about the severe drug problem and prompt VCH to explore all steps to reduce the death toll from toxic drugs in Richmond, amounting to 26 lives in 2023, some of which might have been saved by a supervised consumption site.
It is time to stop talking about the problem and take action.
Supervised consumption site: The facts
The site would include a gateway to healthcare and support services for people struggling with acute substance use disorder. The site would provide an opportunity for individuals to engage with healthcare professionals, social workers and addiction counsellors who can offer guidance, referrals, and support for treatment and recovery.
- Ambulances becoming more available to attend other medical calls such as heart attacks.
- Taking pressure off RCMP and first responders for 911 calls.
- Twenty-six people died in Richmond through toxic drugs in 2023, in British Columbia, 2,511 people died in 2023. This could have saved some of them.
- Reducing the need for people to use drugs in public places, potentially cleaning up our streets.
- Saving costs as each drug overdose, poisoning and death costs money to deal with.
- Reducing substance use disorder through services provided.
- Educating the public about the toxic drug supply to increase awareness of the risks of doing drugs, and educating to reduce stigma so that those who use substances can feel safe accessing life-saving services.
- Keeping our streets safe and clean while reducing deaths by allowing VCH to consider a safe-consumption site at Richmond Hospital.
The scare tactics
There are people in our community who have tried to make this important issue a political opportunity by sharing information that is inflammatory and incorrect.
Mr. Sheldon Starrett (former Richmond council candidate) told Richmond City Council that the consumption sites are not safe, and staff are afraid to work there. This is not true.
Coun. Au stated that if VCH opened this site at Richmond Hospital, it could lead to others opening in Richmond and even named Hamilton as a potential site. This is not true.
This is a made-in-Richmond issue and we need a made-in-Richmond solution. Once city staff and VCH do their analysis then a model can be chosen based on facts and the needs of our community — it could be a hybrid model or a standalone building at the hospital. Time will tell.
If VCH decides to open a consumption site at Richmond Hospital, it will save lives — maybe your brother, sister, dad, mom or school friend can be saved.
Many people who use drugs are working and living in your neighbourhood.They deserve a chance to get the help they need and recover from this horrible disease.