Pubdate: Fri, 12 Aug 2016
Source: Daily Courier, The (CN BC)
Page: A1
Copyright: 2016 The Okanagan Valley Group of Newspapers
Author: Andrea Peacock
Bookmark: (Supervised Injection Sites)


Kelowna Mayor Says City Is Pleased With Effort to Address Surge in 
Fatal Drug Overdoses

Establishing a safe injection site in Kelowna will save lives, says 
Mayor Colin Basran.

"We believe that safe consumption sites are part of the spectrum of 
care for people in our community," said Basran. "People are dying, 
and safe consumption sites will stop people from dying."

Interior Health is looking into setting up Canada's first safe 
injection sites outside Vancouver.

"We are planning to have safe consumption services available in 
Kelowna and Kamloops," said Dr. Silvina Mema, medical health officer 
with Interior Health. "We think that this needs to happen as soon as possible."

In April, Dr. Perry Kendall, B.C. health officer, declared a public 
health emergency following a surge in drug overdose deaths.

The problem has continued since then, with people dying at higher 
rates than in previous years, said Mema.

In Kelowna, 19 people died from drug overdoses in the first six 
months of this year. By comparison, 20 died from drug overdoses 
during all of 2015.

"If we continue to see this trend, we may end up with 40 deaths in 
Kelowna by the end of the year," said Mema.

The trend in Kelowna is reflected provincewide. Sixty-four people in 
B.C. died from drug overdoses in the first six months of this year 
compared to 62 during all of last year.

"There's a real serious issue of people dying," said Basran. "It 
concerns me, and that's why we're pleased to see the province step up 
and want to try and find solutions to deal with it."

The goal of a safe injection site is not only to decrease deaths, but 
also to reduce public drug use, said Mema. "We know people use drugs 
in public spaces, because we find the needles on the streets," she said.

Drug use is not limited to specific areas in Kelowna either, said Basran.

"I think it's important to point out that people are doing these 
drugs in all neighbourhoods," he said. "If people are thinking that 
this isn't taking place in their neighbourhood, I think that is 
false. It is taking place in our community, and we need to find ways 
to deal with it."

Interior Health has met with Kelowna city council, and the health 
authority is now developing a list of possible locations for the safe 
injection site.

"We would not be looking at a new site or a stand-alone clinic," said 
Mema. "We would be looking at integrating the safe consumption 
services within other services that already exist."

This differs from the format of Insite, the supervised injection site 
in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside, which is a stand-alone building.

"It is too expensive to do that, and we don't have the number of drug 
users that the Downtown Eastside

has in Vancouver," said Mema.

In order to legally operate a safe injection site, Interior Health 
must receive an exemption from Health Canada.

This will require IH to present a detailed plan of the site, along 
with letters from community groups and stakeholders following consultations.

"We know that Health Canada is interested in working with us and has 
heard that we have an emergency here," said Mema.

Plans for both the Kelowna and Kamloops sites are happening 
simultaneously, she added.

"It's controversial, but we want this to work."
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom