VANCOUVER — On-demand addiction treatment is now available in the Vancouver neighbourhood hardest-hit by the ongoing opioid overdose crisis.
The Downtown Eastside Connections clinic, unveiled Monday, is expected to receive 600 patients a year who want help to stop using illicit drugs.
Dr. Ron Joe with Vancouver Coastal Health said the new clinic is unique because clients can walk in whenever they decide they're ready for help.
Many other programs require people to be off drugs before they begin treatment, he said.
"In my experience there is a small window of opportunity when people who are untreated in their addiction are open to obtaining treatment, and this is what this site is about," Joe said.
B.C. Health Minister Terry Lake said the program is designed to treat addiction as a health condition, relying on evidence-based methods including opioid replacement therapy and counselling services.
On-site social workers, community workers and peer support will be available to address non-medical issues linked with substance abuse seven days a week.
"We know we need to approach this type of complex issue in a different way, it's not like fixing a broken leg," Lake said. "It requires culturally appropriate, culturally safe approaches, but it also requires compassion and people coming to the Connections clinic here will find all of that."
Joe said patients will be assessed and receive their first dose of opioid replacements like suboxone or methadone within two hours of checking in.
Vancouver Coastal Health said in a statement that both drug therapies, which are taken orally, have an 80 per cent success rate.
Injectable drug therapies will not be available because Connections does not have the appropriate facilities.
The clinic's opening was five years in the making, a frustration for those living in the centre of the overdose crisis, which killed more than 900 people across B.C. last year.
Rob Morgan, a former heroin and cocaine user, said people have been dying daily without any other treatment options.
"I'm just happy this is opening right now because I know people that have been waiting for Connections to open so they can come in and get off their addiction," said Morgan, who is now a peer adviser for the clinic.
Located in the same building as the Hope to Health Research Centre, Connections will also work with the B.C. Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS on addictions research.