Through funding from the Provincial Health Services Authority (PHSA), qathet community action team (CAT) has purchased a Fourier-transform infrared (FTIR) spectrometer that enables advanced drug testing in a matter of minutes.
According to a media release from Lift Community Services, this is the only rural and remote community in the Vancouver Coastal Health region providing FTIR drug checking services, and Tla’amin Nation is the only First Nation in Canada offering this service in an Indigenous community (on reserve or on treaty settlement lands).
Marlane Paul, health director for Tla’amin Nation, stated: “We need to pick up every tool available to us in this time of unimaginable crisis. The arrival of this technology in our region provides a new way for us to express the Tla'amin value of čɛčɛgatawɬ -- that we need to look after and care for all and to not leave anyone behind. The spectrometer is already saving lives and our hands are raised to PHSA for making this possible, and to our community for actively taking up the opportunity to keep one another safe.”
From a harm reduction perspective, this technology is a game changer, stated CAT coordinator Kathryn Colby.
“It helps community members check their drugs for fentanyl and other contaminants and take action to reduce overdose risk and other harms,” stated Colby.
Until now, testing drugs in the qathet region has been limited to fentanyl test strips, when available, which detect the presence of fentanyl and some fentanyl analogues in a drug sample, the release stated. FTIR technology can identify up to six compounds in any given sample, providing a clearer picture of the contents of a substance.
Led by the CAT, FTIR testing is a formal operations partnership between Lift, Tla’amin Health and Vancouver Coastal Health, with additional resource support from the BC Centre on Substance Use, the release stated. FTIR testing services have been running out of ʔaǰɩmɛt Harm Reduction Circle in Tla’amin for the past two months, and are now expanding into other areas in the region, according to the release.
CAT is hosting a community information session to provide more information about drug checking on June 5 from 5:30 to 6:30 pm at the Community Resource Centre (4572 Joyce Avenue). Representatives from Tla’amin Health, Lift and the BC Centre on Substance Use will be sharing information on this new service. For more information and to register visit qathetdrugchecking.eventbrite.com.
“We encourage anyone who is interested, including recreational drug users, to attend,” stated Colby. “We accept that people experiment with substances, and we encourage everyone to test their substances before use if possible.”
FTIR drug checking is a free and confidential service. Regular drug checking location and hours, as well as instructions for testing anonymously, will be posted on the CAT’s website at prcat.ca.