I first visited Insite in summer of 2011. At the time, I didn't know what I was walking into. I never heard of a "supervised injection clinic" before, which is how most people describe Insite. I think Insite is much more than that because Insite loves on everyone right where they are at to help save their life!
One of the most common phrases homeless services nonprofits or faith based ministries say is: "we build relationships", and many do just that, but often there is a catch or an agenda at the relationship's foundation - the person is expected to change in some way!
I find Insite to be about unconditional love. Insite does provide detox and recovery services, but they are simply being present with people at often what's probably the worst moments of their lives.
You have to understand that the people who walk into the front door of Insite are some of the most amazing people in the world who just happen to be at the lowest point in life a human being can exist. Most everyone who uses Insite's services would not be allowed in or accepted at other services or ministries.
The Downtown Eastside (DTES) of Vancouver is one of the poorest communities in Canada. Los Angele's Skid Row district is only area that compares in North America, yet for some reason DTES seems to mess me up more. Seeing people living outside in the cold and rain always wrecks me.
DTES was in a crisis. HIV and HepC rates along with related deaths were skyrocketing. People were literally fixing their needles out of urine puddles. Something had to be done!
The results are dramatic. From Wikipedia:
A 2008 cost-benefit analysis of the site in the Canadian Medical Association Journal observed net-savings of $18 million and an increase of 1175 life-years over ten years. Another cost-benefit analysis published in the International Journal of Drug Policy in 2010 determined that the site prevents 35 cases of HIV and about 3 deaths per year, indicating a yearly net-societal benefit of more than $6 million. A 2011 study in The Lancet found overdose deaths have dropped 35% in the Insite area since it opened, much more than 9% drop elsewhere in Vancouver. An editorial in the Canadian Medical Association Journal noted that after three years of research "a remarkable consensus that the facility reduces harm to users and the public developed among scientists, criminologists, and even the Vancouver Police Department."
During my first visit I was not able to record an video interview at Insite, so for the last few years I have been rehearsing in my mind how perfect the video would be if I ever got a second chance. It would be in a perfect location. Perfect lights and audio. It would be with the perfect person - maybe a doctor or a nurse wearing a lab coat. Just perfect in every way. But life is not perfect, and as I thought about it - that's why Insite exists. So although this interview is in an awkward location and Darwin is not dressed as a medical professional - it actually is a perfect video because what Darwin talks about - you need to hear!
Please watch and share this important video interview with Darwin Fisher, who is now at the top of my hero list. Not everyone can be present with the most vulnerable, but Darwin does so with grace and love. In this video we talk about Insite's flat management style, which I wish more nonprofits would adopt. At one point just before this video, a nurse saw me and put me to work. A moment I will cherish and it showed me first hand how Insite operates. We also talk about the importance not having a bunch of dumb protocols that end up being road blocks to getting people the support they need. Even if you're an abstinent based model you could learn a lot from how Insite loves on people - all people!
For my faith based friends that may have a problem with Insite please read/watch: Why I help addicts shoot up: Interview w/ Meera Bai, Christian nurse & harm reduction advocatePhoto credits: jellymc - urbansnaps