Pubdate: Wed, 03 Feb 2016
Source: Victoria News (CN BC)
Copyright: 2016 Black Press
Author: Pamela Roth


It's been two-and-a-half years since a community campaign was launched
to build a Supervised Consumption Services (SCS) site in Victoria to
help prevent deaths from drug overdose.

And now organizers of the Yes2SCS campaign feel they are one step
closer towards turning that goal into a reality thanks to signs of
change in federal legislation and talks with local

According to Dr. Richard Crow, Island Health's executive medical
director, the health authority has always supported the concept of a
SCS being part of a range of prevention, treatment and harm reduction
services/support for people living with addictions, but requires
support from every level of government.

Crow said the health authority has not been part of local discussions
thus far because it was clear such a service would not be approved by
the federal government. The newly elected government, however, has
indicated it will likely take a new approach to the legislature
framework surrounding supervised consumption in Canada.

"We now are seeing signals from the new federal government that the
legislation will change and we look forward to the opportunity for
further discussion and to working with governments at all levels, as
well as other stakeholders," said Crow, noting the health authority
has already been working with community partners to better meet the
needs of the marginalized population, such as the distribution of
Naloxone kits through street nurses and outreach teams.

"If such a service were to be established and operated by Island
Health, it would require substantial financial and operational
resources, which would need to be considered against other competing

The Yes2SCS campaign is comprised of health care professionals,
researchers, community activists and social workers who've been
building community support, along with promoting positive perceptions
of people who use drugs and equity in health and social services.

According to campaign organizers, the criminalization of drug use and
users causes people to hide and use alone because they are afraid of
being arrested and humiliated by police. Supervised consumption,
however, allows people to use in safer conditions with clean supplies
under the supervision of nurses. If they overdose, there's someone to
take care of them.

Last Thursday, more than 100 people gathered in downtown Victoria for
a memorial march that ended at the Johnson Street Park where a man
died from a drug overdose in late December. The man was found to have
a mixed cocktail of drugs in his system, including morphine, heroin,
fentanyl and methamphetamine.

His death was among eight suspected drug overdoses in the Greater
Victoria area in the span of a week, sparking calls from outreach
groups for immediate action.

Alex Holtom has been a member of Yes2SCS for a year-and-a-half.
Working at an emergency shelter in Victoria, she estimates there are
between two to three overdoses a week.

"We are seeing so many overdoses...this is really needed. There's a
lot of push for this in the community," said Holtom, adding Yes2SCS
should begin negotiations this year with the city, Island Health and
Victoria police for establishing a service.

"We're certainly committed to working with all levels of
government...but it's about them working with us and getting them to
work with us. That's been a struggle, but I think in the next couple
of months we're going to see some discussions happening and I'm really
hopeful to see how those turn out."

Victoria Coun. Jeremy Loveday was one of the people who participated
in last week's march. He said the city supports safe consumption
sites, but it's time for Island Health to come to the table and lead
the charge.

"Either you go forward as the health authority or with the health
authority's permission, you set it up and you ask for help for
support," said Loveday. "These deaths are tragic and preventable...I
just don't see any reason why we're not moving forward immediately
with SCS in Victoria."

A public forum will be held on Feb. 24 from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the
City Hall antechamber.
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