Leadership Series

October 17, 2017 9:00 am

Leadership Series: Leading the fight from the front lines against the overdose crisis

Civilian volunteers in the DTES attend to another overdose.


Sarah Blyth is the founder of the Overdose Prevention Society who spearheaded several pop-up injection sites in the Downtown Eastside (DTES).

LISTEN: Leadership Series at the front lines of the overdose crisis 

The sites continue to be unauthorized and work outside the law, but Blyth said something needed to be done.

“The overdoses started happening so often that we needed to get set up,” Blyth said.

READ MORE: DTES group will continue to hand out pain relievers despite City of Vancouver’s concerns

She said people thought they were crazy for trying to have an Insite-like supervised injection site inside a tent in an alley, but she said they made it their own thing.

“It’s just a medic tent with some people who are trained, you know, we had nurses we had all kinds of folks coming back there volunteering and now it’s a model that is being done in different places and growing every day and it’s saving lives, so that’s great.”

WATCH: Shocking new numbers on drug overdose deaths in B.C.

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Blyth said their need to act grew stronger after one of the supervisors for the DTES market lost her son to an overdose.

“It was just like, I mean we’ve lost so many people, we’ve lost people who work here at the market.  We’ve lost friends and family of people who work here at the market,” said Blyth.

READ MORE: New Minister of Mental Health and Addictions challenged to visit injection site

“So we were like ‘screw it,’ we are just going to do something… we are just going to do it and people are going to have to deal with it because we’re saving lives and no one is going to stop us from doing that.”

The overdose prevention society now has the backing of Vancouver Coastal Health.  Every Monday the volunteers meet to get organized.

WATCH: B.C. government announces plans to fight the overdose crisis

There are doughnuts and coffee and a people talk loudly to drown out the garbage truck only meters away in the alley.

Everybody gets a job for the week, with many showing up when they can to volunteer.

Blyth was at the centre of this initiative, but ultimately, as result of the opioid crisis, many people have stepped-up, people from the DTES who care about their community.

READ MORE: Pop-up safe injection site opens in Vancouver Downtown Eastside

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