The 50 Most Powerful People in Vancouver Right Now
Founding Member, Overdose Prevention Society
The Rebel When the manager of the DTES Market, Sarah Blyth, set up two tents on the Downtown Eastside, little did she realize how many thousands of people would come to depend 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 efforts 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 off East Hastings Street, staffed by volunteers trained to act quickly in the event a narcotics user suffers from a fentanyl overdose—a system that impressed 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 and implement it in other cities throughout Canada, but they haven’t been able to do it as quickly as she’s done.”
How This Activist is Helping to Curb Drug-Related Deaths in Vancouver
"Blyth knows that doing the right thing sometimes means doing what many consider to be wrong. From Nanaimo to Ottawa, nurses and harm-reduction workers have come to the same conclusion, as the opioid crisis places them in the difficult position of having to take illegal action to save lives. It was Blyth who inspired nurse Leigh Chapman and her fellow volunteers to open a pop-up safe-injection site in Toronto’s Moss Park neighbourhood in the summer of 2017."