Surrey needs to cool the rhetoric and find a recovery-focused approach to its growing drug problem, addictions experts say. The city is home to a growing level of drug abuse, mounting overdoses and frequent deaths, causing many to call for safe injection sites.
Last year, Surrey Fire Services responded to an average of 4.5 overdoses per day. That has climbed to about seven per day this year. According to the BC Coroner’s Office, Surrey had 378 overdose fatalities in the last 10 years, with 71 of those occurring last year alone. In the first six months of this year, there were 44 overdose fatalities in Surrey. Since last year, there has been a huge spike in the amount of fentanyl mixed with street drugs. Fentanyl is an often fatal opioid that’s 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine. There has also been a emergence of a drug called W-18, of which very little is known. It is a painkiller (a suspected opioid) that is believed to be several times stronger than fentanyl. Fraser Health is now saying communities need to be open to “safe consumption sites.” The model many community members are looking at is Vancouver’s Insite – a safe injection site. The push for a safe injection site here has been swift and loud. Ann Livingston, a volunteer with Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users, set up a pop-up safe injection site in Whalley last week and said she will continue to push the issue in the future. City officials have been watching closely, but have not yet shut down the makeshift site on 135A Street in Whalley. Mayor Linda Hepner said she wants to see a full suite of services, including harm reduction, education, recovery and enforcement.
Any safe consumption services, she said, would be contained within existing supports, such as homeless shelters.