Sarah Blyth

Vancouver Magazine - - Cover Story -


The Rebel When the­m­an­ager of the DTESMar­ket, Sarah Blyth, set up two tents on theDown­town East­side, lit­tle did she re­al­ize how manyt­hou­sands of­peo­ple would come tode­pend on them. Af­ter the pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment de­clared a state of emer­gency for the opi­oid cri­sis back in April, red tape and re­luc­tant politi­cians were de­lay­ing any well-in­tended eorts from civil ser­vants, and lives were lost ev­ery day. So, Blyth and sev­eral other DTES ac­tivists took mat­ters into their own hands, open­ing a safe in­jec­tion site in an al­ley o East Hast­ings Street, staed by vol­un­teers trained to act quickly in the event a nar­cotics user suf­fers from afen­tanyl over­dose—a sys­tem thatim­pressed Van­cou­ver Coastal Health so much, they are now rapidly try­ing to repli­cate Blyth’s in­fra­struc­ture.

“She was clever about it,” says Don­ald MacPher­son, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Cana­dian Drug Pol­icy Coali­tion. “She named it the ‘Over­dose Pre­ven­tion So­ci­ety’— mean­ing it says noth­ing about il­le­gal in­jec­tion sites in the ti­tle. It meant the po­lice could turn a blind eye to it.” And so the po­lice did, along with lo­cal health au­thor­i­ties. That is, un­til Blyth’s method proved to be suc­cess­ful. “Just see the num­ber of peo­ple that have been through that trailer of hers to see the im­pact she’s had,” says MacPher­son. “Fed­eral politi­cians, pro­vin­cial politi­cians…they want to take her sys­tem andim­ple­ment it in other cities through­out Canada, but they haven’t been able to do it as quickly as she’s done.”

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