A new overdose prevention site has been given the go-ahead to operate in downtown New Westminster.
At their March 29 meeting, New Westminster city council voted unanimously in favour of a temporary use permit for the site at 40 Begbie St. The vote passed with no discussion at Monday night’s meeting.
The centre is being operated by the Lower Mainland Purpose Society, under the banner of Fraser Health. It’s being set up as a health contact centre offering a wide range of services, including witnessed consumption, drug testing, harm reduction supplies, take-home naloxone kits, training on naloxone and education on safer drug use. People will also be able to access an on-site medical clinic and get referrals to treatment centres and health services.
The temporary use permit will allow the centre to operate for a three-year period, ending March 29, 2024, with an option to renew for an additional three years.
The low-key vote by council marks the achievement of a plan that has been in the works since July 2020, when city councillors directed staff to work with Fraser Health on an overdose prevention site and the development of a safe supply program.
The push came in response to the growing drug toxicity crisis in B.C., which has seen more than 16,360 people die across Canada since January 2016.
New Westminster alone saw at least 35 deaths related to tainted drug supply in 2020.
Under the temporary use permit, the centre will be open from 3 to 11 p.m. daily. It will be staffed by a site coordinator and four workers, and the coordinator will ensure that a “Good Neighbour Agreement” is implemented immediately to help minimize possible disruption to the neighbourhood.