Pubdate: Fri, 25 Nov 2016
Source: Daily Courier, The (CN BC)
Copyright: 2016 The Okanagan Valley Group of Newspapers
Author: Andrea Peacock
Page: A1


Interior Health hopes to offer supervised consumption services at
building on Leon Avenue

A downtown Kelowna building has been chosen as a prospective
safe-consumption site for illicit drug users.

Interior Health announced Thursday it is proposing two options for 
safe-consumption sites in Kelowna: a mobile unit and/or a fixed site at 
477 Leon Ave.

"In a supervised consumption service, we provide a
health-care-supported safe space for a person to use their illicit
substance or drugs by whatever route they choose," said Dr. Trevor
Corneil, chief medical officer with Interior Health. "We know that
about one per cent of the population uses illicit substances, and of
that, there is a significant number who inject, inhale or snort drugs
on a regular basis.

"This gives them a safe place to use where they don't have to fear

Concern about drug overdoses in B.C. rose earlier this year, after a
dramatic increase in the number of overdose deaths from illicit drugs
such as fentanyl, prompting medical health officer Dr. Perry Kendall
to declare a public health emergency.

In Kelowna, there were 37 drug-overdose deaths between Jan. 1 and Oct.
31, compared with 20 overdose deaths all of last year.

"There is always a risk, but it is particularly high right now because
of the fentanyl crisis and the short period of time it takes people to
overdose and die," said Corneil. "Evidence shows that
supervised-consumption services can reduce the number of overdose
deaths, improve access to health care and treatment services and
reduce public drug use and discarded needles."

Along with preventing overdoses, safe-consumption sites can also
prevent infectious diseases, by providing safe needles and other
paraphernalia for drug users, he said.

"We'll likely also have mental-health counsellors who are directly
involved in the safe-consumption service as well as public health
nurses," said Corneil. "This is focusing on a very high-risk group who
are dealing with all of the negative consequences of substance-use
disorders, and this is our way, amongst others, of engaging with
persons who we might not otherwise reach."

IH began looking into implementing safe drug-consumption services in
February, followed by discussions with major stakeholders, including
the city and the RCMP.

The proposed site on Leon Avenue is owned by the Ki-Low-Na Friendship

Safe-consumption services would be offered in conjunction with the
services already offered at the Friendship Society, said Corneil.

"It's a unique opportunity to partner with a community agency and find
some synergies where we can draw resources from each other and from
people that are located in the Leon area."

A fixed site downtown would also coincide with many other IH and
community services offered nearby, said Corneil.

One of the services nearby is Kelowna's Gospel Mission, also located
on Leon Avenue.

"I feel any steps that can help decrease the deaths due to overdoses
would be a good thing for Kelowna," said Randy Benson, executive
director of the Gospel Mission.

"As far as location is concerned, no location is going to be the
perfect location, because you'll never be able to provide the service
to everyone who might need it. What Interior Health needs to determine
is what location will provide the best service to the most people."

In an effort to reach people beyond the downtown core, IH is also
considering a mobile unit, which could offer safe-consumption services
across the city.

"Unlike Vancouver, where we see a lot of ghettoized drug use and
ghettoized overdose events, Kelowna is quite distributed from the lake
out to the airport," said Corneil. "The unit could stop at certain
locations for periods of time downtown and other parts of the city
where we see overdose events."

Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran is in favour of a local safe-consumption
site, because of the benefits it will offer drug users and members of
the community, he said.

"We know it will help save lives," said Basran. "It will put people
close to help when they need it, and it will help alleviate some of
the needle-disposal issues we've been seeing across our community."

IH is seeking input from the public on supervised-consumption services
and the proposed sites until Dec. 15 through the supervised-consumption
services page on

"I think it's important for people to know that we do understand the
concern they have around attracting drug users and around some of the
other maladapted behaviours such as theft that occur within and around
active drug use, and those are things we will actively monitor," said
Corneil. "As a health authority, it is our job to mitigate those
potential downsides to having a safe-consumption site."

Interior Health plans to submit a proposal to Health Canada by the end
of the year, and Corneil is hoping to hear back between January and

After receiving approval from Health Canada, it would not take long to
implement safe-consumption services in Kelowna, said Corneil.

IH is also looking into having a mobile safe-consumption site in
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