Pubdate: Thu, 05 Jan 2017
Source: Nanaimo News Bulletin (CN BC)
Copyright: 2017, BC Newspaper Group


Opioid overdose deaths didn't suddenly become a crisis, but maybe now the
issue will be treated that way.

After 25 people in Nanaimo died from using fentanyl in 2016, the need for
a supervised consumption site became overwhelming for some observers. An
unsanctioned location, supported by one or more city councillors, popped
up in the city hall parking lot after Christmas and hasn't been shut down.

It's got people talking about the issue of supervised consumption. Many
argue that government and health officials shouldn't be complicit in
illegal drug use. And there could be costly liabilities. On the other
hand, there are hard-to-calculate costs of doing nothing. A supervised
consumption site isn't meant to promote or even normalize drug use - it's
a harm-reduction measure. These sites help save a few lives, among the few
per cent who choose to visit them, and lives are precious.

Supervised consumption sites can cause problems and may be viewed as an
undesirable element in a community. But in a crisis, there aren't always
perfect solutions. We need a multi-faceted strategy and supervised
consumption is one of a range of measures we need to take to try to
reverse the statistics we're seeing with fentanyl deaths.

We wouldn't refer to the city hall tent as a safe consumption site,
considering it's manned by volunteers with varying degrees of medical
training. It's better than nothing, though, because at the very least it
creates a 'buddy system' for drug use.

The tent is a symbol, too; it's a call to action. At least one councillor
decided the fentanyl crisis needed to be addressed immediately. City
council, which had opportunity to be proactive, now has to be reactive,
and will have to move to shut the site down or co-operate with Island
Health on an alternative.

Our first responders arrive in time to save lives, usually. Sometimes they
can't. They're doing everything they can in a crisis. Now we need to look
at what else we can do.
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