Insite, Vancouver's supervised drug injection site, will extend its hours during weeks when social assistance cheques are issued.
Under the six-month pilot project, the health facility will stay open for 24 hours a day, Wednesday to Friday, during these weeks. Right now, it is open each day from 9 a.m. to 3 a.m.
Health authorities say the extended hours are in response to the rise in overdoses this year — especially during weeks when social assistance cheques are issued.
"We're seeing a dramatic increase in the number of people overdosing at Insite as well as overdose visits to emergency departments during welfare-cheque week," said Dr. Ron Joe, the health authority's associate medical director of substance abuse services.
"In response, we are expanding our hours to determine if this targeted intervention will prevent overdoses."
The health authority said it monitored overdose rates on a week-by-week basis from January to May.
It noted a 80 per cent increase in opioid-related overdoses during weeks when welfare cheques were distributed.
"We don't want people overdosing in an alley or at home when Insite is closed between 3 a.m. and 9 a.m.," Dr. Joe said.
"If people are going to use illicit substances, it is better that they do so in a supervised environment."
The extended hours will begin Wednesday Aug. 24.
There have been 433 overdose deaths in B.C. so far this year, which is a 74 per cent increase over this time last year, according to figures from the BC Coroners Service.
By Jesse Johnston
Image: Colin Askey