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'This has absolutely saved lives': Safe-supply drug dispensing machine in Victoria hailed a success


Joey Yoe and his dog Dink live in a Cool Aid Society supportive housing facility on Victoria's Douglas Street, better known as the former Tally-Ho hotel.

Yoe said he was "mostly a drinker" in his early years, but 15 years ago he tried heroin for the first time.

Four overdoses later, dealing with constant sickness, doing whatever it takes to get the next fix, he decided it was time to get a handle on his addiction.

Yoe says a machine in the lobby of the Cool Aid Society building has given him his life back.

“They call them hydromorphs but they’re Dilaudid,” said Yoe.

It’s a safe supply dispensing machine, reading the palm print of the user, dispensing a days worth of Dilaudid.

It’s a University of British Columbia pilot project run by MySafe Society. It’s one of four machines in B.C. and the only one on Vancouver Island.

“We have about 130 people on the program right now and the way we measure success, is that we have nobody that has died,” said Samantha Monckton, with MySafe Society.

In 2016, due to a toxic drug supply on the streets, the province declared a Public Health Emergency.

Since then, more than 10,000 people have died from overdoses, including 1,872 last year alone.

“Folks get a prescription and then they get a slot in the machine and then they’re able to access their prescription 24/7,” said Monckton.

Open for one year now, the palm print reader prevents users from getting more than they are allowed over a certain time period.

“We have people consistently signing up for it,” said Jenny Temple, housing manager for the Cool Aid Society.

Thirty out of 47 people in the building, where 90 to 95 per cent of residents are opioid users, are signed up. Not one person has overdosed since joining the program.

“This has absolutely saved lives,” said Temple.

“It’s cut my usage in half,” said Yoe. “It really does help.”

The pills haven’t cured Yoe’s addiction – he still uses heroin and fentanyl – but they have provided him with stability, allowing longer periods of time to pass between using.

“Well, I’m alive here to do this interview, so it’s changed quite a bit. It saved my life actually,” said Yoe.

The pilot project will continue here in Victoria and early success already has safe supply advocates wanting MySafe machines to multiply. Top Stories

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