New program at Surrey Memorial Hospital aims to combat drug overdose deaths

The new Episodic Overdose Prevention Services team at Surrey Memorial Hospital aims to reduce harm from toxic drugs by providing safe spaces and guidance for substance users. Angela Bower reports.

A new program at Surrey Memorial Hospital aims to reduce harm caused by a toxic drug supply.

The Episodic Overdose Prevention Services team at Surrey Memorial Hospital says it helps an average of 20 people per day, through safe spaces and guidance.

Tara Jeeves, a community outreach support worker at Surrey Memorial, says as the toxicity of drugs increases, she’s there to support substance users at the hospital.

“The substances are so toxic now. A lot of folks that use have come to terms with death, I understand that, but I also know that nobody wants to die,” she said.

“With the fear of overdose being so prevalent, I think using near the hospital is a safety net for them.”

Jeeves says she wants anyone who’s considering coming to the hospital to use, to know they will be treated as human beings.

“Everyone deserves to be treated with respect and dignity no matter what their circumstances are,” she said.

Due to her lived experience, Jeeves adds she understands the road to recovery is a difficult one for people with addictions.

“I experienced five years of homelessness and addiction to fentanyl,” she said. “It’s a devastating feeling, when you’ve got nowhere to call and no one to turn to… I didn’t want to reach out about my circumstances because it was humiliating.”

One of the people Jeeves helps at Surrey Memorial is 32-year-old Sheri Houlden.

Houlden says she uses drugs as a coping method, to deal with the pain of losing her children. She says her daughter was just two-years-old when social services took her away, after an incident with her ex-partner.

“He overdosed so I called the ambulance and saved his life. But the paramedics said they had to call social services because there was a child there.”

Houlden says living on the streets of Surrey has made her feel soulless and she would like to get clean, but wishes she had a supportive family.

“My mom doesn’t even talk to me anymore, or my brother. I wish they would because I would love to go home and get clean. I have zero support”

Jeeves says she’s grateful to be the support people need. She adds she encourages them with her belief that there’s light at the end of the tunnel for people who want to get clean, pointing out to how far she has come.

“Tomorrow is my 3 years clean and sober,” Jeeves said. “I knew I was going to make it out and I hope the same for everybody.”

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