Pubdate: Thu, 29 Dec 2016
Source: Nanaimo News Bulletin (CN BC)
Copyright: 2016, BC Newspaper Group
Author: Nicholas Pescod


Located in a parking lot next to Nanaimo's city hall sits a large
white tent.

A small fire burns inside the tent, keeping volunteers, who are
surrounded by donations of medical supplies and food, nice and warm.
It's a place where individuals can come and safely inject drugs,
without the fear of being humiliated or shamed.

It also happens to be unsanctioned.

Established by Nanaimo city councillor Gord Fuller and a group of
concerned residents, the tent has been acting as a safe-injection, or
safe-consumption site as its organizers call it, since Boxing Day.

"Too many people are dying. There are just too many people dying,"
Fuller said. "Four years ago if you had asked me about a
safe-injection site, I would not have advocated for it. But with
fentanyl and now carfentanil in the works, things are just getting
worse and worse."

The injection site operates from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. There roughly 20
volunteers in total who work in shifts of two to three. A handful of
volunteers do have first-aid training, according to Fuller, who said
they want to always have one volunteer trained to administer naloxone
on location at all times.

"We want to have it staffed with two to three volunteers, with at
least one having the naloxone kit training," he said. "As it goes
along, everybody will get the naloxone training."

On-site volunteers provide users with clean needles and ensure old
needles are properly disposed.

"We've got lots of syringes and cookers and tourniquets," said Jeremy
Kalicum, co-ordinator of the unsanctioned site.

Kalicum said seven people have come through the site since it opened
on Monday morning.

"We're not just taking care of users, we're taking care of the
community as well," he said.

Kalicum, along with a handful of other residents, decided to set up
the safe-injection site in an effort to benefit drug users and force
the city's hand on the issue of safe-injection sites.

"We as a group were upset with the inaction that has been taken by the
city," he said. "We wanted to really be the ones to take action and
spur the city [into action]."

Many areas across the province continue to see an annual increase of
illicit drug overdose deaths. According to recently released
statistics from the B.C. Coroners Service, there were 25 illicit drug
overdose deaths in Nanaimo this year. There were 19 in the city last

"It is important to have the resources out there for the community to
safely consume drugs, especially with the fentanyl crisis going on,"
Kalicum said. "We don't want people overdosing behind a dumpster."

The injection site relies on donations in order to operate and Fuller
has pledged $1,000 of his own money. Fuller said safe injection sites
have been on the city's agenda, but that some kind of action needed to
be taken before another person dies.

"As city councillor this has been on our agenda for awhile and we were
to be talking about it at our last council meeting and it got put over
to a committee and then the more and more you hear about [illicit
overdose deaths] the more you realize something needs to be done and
we throw too much to committee," he said.

As the site is unsanctioned by the city and located in city hall's
parking lot, Fuller said the site location could move from its current
location to another spot downtown.
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