Saturday, November 23, 2013


November 22, 2013

Audit targets agency running renowned Vancouver supervised-injection site


Vancouver Coastal Health and BC Housing are conducting review on PHS Community Services 


The community agency that runs Canada's only safe-injection site, as well as numerous housing projects and social enterprises for troubled residents of the Downtown Eastside, is now having its finances audited by both of its two major government funders.

Vancouver Coastal Health confirmed to The Globe and Mail this week that PHS Community Services, commonly known in the city as the Portland, is being audited to determine "whether PHS has the financial capacity to provide the services to clients it is contracted for."

The agency has agreements worth $8.5-million from the regional health authority through 19 contracts. News of the health authority audit follows confirmation two weeks ago that BC Housing is also conducting a financial review of the Portland's finances.

It's a troubling development for the 20-year-old organization, renowned for the scope of its services in the Downtown Eastside that go far beyond what other housing non-profits do.

PHS runs the city's main supervised-injection site, Insite, the Pigeon Park credit union, a health clinic, half a dozen social enterprises ranging from a laundry to honey-making and chocolate-making operations and 950 units of housing spread out among 16 sites for some of the most difficult-to-house people in the city.

Its founders, Mark Townsend and Liz Evans, have won awards for their work and attracted the attention of national politicians and international celebrities, most recently English superstar comedian and commentator Russell Brand, who visited Insite earlier this fall.

They're also legendary for being willing to go to the wall in public campaigns for programs and services, sometimes fighting with their own funders. The group started the lawsuit against the federal government to keep the city's supervised-injection site open, eventually winning the case.

But the financial operations for this complex empire have always been a subject of mystery and interest to those in the Downtown Eastside world.

PHS's filings to Revenue Canada, required for charities, indicate it owns $58-million worth of property. Those filings also indicate it paid six people in its organization between $120,000 and $160,000 last year, and another four between $80,000 and $120,000 – significantly more than any of the other big housing non-profits that operate in the Downtown Eastside.


Mr. Townsend, BC Housing and the health authority have all avoided commenting on the specifics of the audit and financial review.

"In the case of PHS, we also understand they have faced some recent financial challenges, so this has given us additional reason to pursue that line of inquiry," Vancouver Coastal Health said in a statement to The Globe and Mail.

There are no court records indicating that PHS has unpaid creditors asking for money.

Mr. Townsend said PHS is working with both groups of financial reviewers to see what can be improved.
"We provide a lot of cost-efficient, effective services but that doesn't mean we can't do better."

Asked about the number of high salaries, he said that the group's global administration fee, as set by its funders, is nine per cent and PHS has stayed within that.

He said PHS employs a number of professionals – doctors, psychiatrists and others – whose services cost a lot.

He also emphasized the agency has a proven track record of service in the city.

"We've been operating for 20 years. In that time, we've provided important services for a group of difficult people, all within a context of a challenging financial framework."

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Wilks speaks out on safe injection sites
By Cranbrook Daily Townsman
Published: November 13, 2013 08:45 AM
Updated: November 13, 2013 08:468 AM
Kootenay-Columbia MP David Wilks registered his opposition to safe injection sites during a debate in the House of Commons last week.

Last week, the House was discussing second reading of a bill proposed by the Conservative government called the Respect For Communities Act.

If passed, the act will amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act to give government greater control over when and where safe injection sites are approved.

"The Respect For Communities Act came about as a result of communities across Canada enquiring about safe injection sites," MP Wilks told the Townsman on Tuesday.

The Insite supervised injection site in Vancouver has been operating for a decade, as a safe place where people inject drugs and connect to health care services – from primary care to treat disease and infection, to addiction counselling and treatment, to housing and community supports.

"Insite has been operating in Vancouver for just over 10 years, and other communities have been enquiring," said MP Wilks. "But there is no regulation or policy with regard to how that would be from the perspective of public consultation and all of the other aspects that come with it. This act was brought forward to deal with those questions."

In the House of Commons on November 4, Wilks spoke up in favour of the Respect For Communities Act, and against supervised injection sites.

"Canadian families expect and deserve safe and healthy communities in which to live and work. That is why our government has consistently delivered the tools needed for all parties to contribute to keeping our streets and communities safe," he began.

"All controlled substances have the potential to be abused. That is why they are called controlled substances. However, the risks are increased when those substances are unregulated and untested and are bought on the street, as illegal drugs often are.

"For this reason, our government is recommending amendments to the act, through the bill currently before the House, that would strengthen the legislation and better protect Canadian families and communities."

The Respect For Communities Act came about after a 2011 Supreme Court decision that found safe injection sites legal when approved, and identified criteria that should be considered in approving sites, such as local conditions that indicate a need for the site, community support or opposition, and its impact on crime rates.

"These drugs are inherently dangerous. They are illegal for a reason. We know that the proceeds from the sale of these substances contribute to organized crime and make our streets and communities less safe," Wilks said in the House.

"It is easy to lose sight of what we are talking about. I can tell members, from personal experience in my former career as a police officer, that heroin is, without a doubt, one of the most addictive drugs known. It is physically and psychologically addictive. It is one of the worst, if not the worst, drugs to come off of. Think about the worst days and times anyone in this place has had, and multiply it by 100. People addicted to this drug will do anything for their next fix, including, but not limited to, shoplifting, robbery, break and enter, assault, and many other Criminal Code offences.

"I urge all members of this House to stand and support the Respect For Communities Act and help give Canadian families safe and healthy communities in which to raise their children."

In response, NDP MP Libby Davies for Vancouver East asked Wilks if he would support a supervised injection facility in his community.

"I personally would not support any safe injection site anywhere in Canada," he responded.

Speaking to the Townsman on Tuesday, Wilks went over the debate and why he has taken this position.

"My issue with safe injection sites is that most of these people have underlying issues that need to be dealt with and we need to find ways of having more recovery houses and those types of opportunities for these people," he said.

"We shouldn't be promoting or condoning the use of an illegal drug that in my opinion is one of the worst drugs known. It's a nasty drug; there's no other way of putting it."

The focus should instead be on treatment for addictions, he went on.

"We need treatment facilities, we need recovery centres, we need more mental health facilities. That's the larger issue of that type of scenario," said Wilks.

The Respect For Communities Act is at second reading now. If passed, it will go to a committee, then returned for third reading. If passed, it will go to the Senate for approval.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013


Heroin Prescription Lawsuit Challenges Closure Of Federal Exemption 

VANCOUVER - A constitutional court challenge has been launched over the federal government's decision to prevent doctors from prescribing heroin to addicts.

Providence Health Care, which operates St. Paul's Hospital in downtown Vancouver, says its lawsuit involves five patients who have been part of a clinical trial known as SALOME (sah-LOH-may).
The SALOME trial examined a specific form of prescription heroin and operated under a federal exemption, but patients who left the trial are no longer covered under that exemption.

Doctors in Vancouver had obtained federal approval to prescribe the heroin to 21 patients who left the trial, but last month Health Minister Rona Ambrose introduced new regulations to close what she described as a "loophole" that allowed the drug to be dispensed.

Dianne Doyle, CEO of Providence Health Care, says the patients are extremely vulnerable and haven't benefited from other treatments such as methadone.

The lawsuit alleges the new federal regulations violate the patients' charter rights and it is asking the B.C. Supreme Court to throw out the revised federal rules.



Get ready...coming to a neighbourhood near you soon...

Oops, it's already here.

It'll just get worse.

It's a long-known social phenomenon called "normalization."

Read it: