Pubdate: Sat, 14 Jan 2017
Source: Saturday Okanagan,  The (CN BC)
Copyright: 2017 Saturday Okanagan
Author: Andrea Peacock
Page: A1


Health authority applying for an exemption from Health Canada to operate
the site; the process could happen right away or take years

A mobile supervised injection site is in the works for Kelowna, Interior
Health announced Friday afternoon. IH will be applying for an exemption
from Health Canada to operate the site. "In order for people to be able to
use drugs under supervision, we need an exemption," said Dr. Silvina Mema,
medical health officer with IH. "Health Canada needs to clear us to be
able to do that."

The application is an onerous one, and IH is currently gathering all the
necessary documents to submit it by the end of January, she said.

Beyond submitting the application, a timeline for the mobile site is
unknown and could take years.

"We would hope to hear from Health Canada as soon as possible, because
this is a service that is needed, (but) we don't know how long it's going
to take for them to get back to us," said Mema.

If the exemption application is denied, IH still plans to offer mobile
services, but instead of offering supervised injection, its purpose would
be overdose prevention.

This announcement to pursue a mobile supervised consumption site comes
less than two months after IH announced its intention to consider either a
mobile site or a fixed site on Leon Avenue.

Consultation with community members revealed most people preferred the
mobile site option, said Mema.

In addition, the majority of drug users are spread between downtown and
Rutland, and a mobile unit could serve people in both locations, she said.

"We believe a mobile unit will reach more people and have a greater
impact," said Dan Allen, president of the Downtown Kelowna Association.

"We support Interior Health's decision today to ask Health Canada for
approval to create a mobile site."

In Kelowna, there were 40 overdose deaths from Jan. 1, 2016 to Nov. 30,
2016, compared to 19 overdose deaths in all of 2015, according to a report
released by the BC Coroners Service. In December, IH medical director Dr.
Trevor Corneil called the overdose crisis a "black hole."

The mobile site will be operated by two staff members: a nurse and a
mental health worker or a social worker.

"We will be providing some form of primary care nursing services, but also
supporting people for when they are ready to either stop using drugs or
need more support," said Deborah Preston, health service administrator
with Interior Health.

Although the site will be mobile, the plan is to have designated stops in
the city.

"The idea for this service would be for the nurse or the social worker to
have some relationship with the people who use drugs and they would know
where to find them and there would be stops that are planned so people who
use drugs would know where to expect it," said Mema. "We'll also be
talking to the neighbours and stakeholders in terms of where the mobile
will park."

IH ran into problems last month when plans for an overdose prevention site
in Rutland were cancelled following backlash from local business owners.

An overdose prevention site did open in downtown Kelowna inside the former
Kelowna Health Centre on Ellis Street, and the response has been positive,
said Mema.

"It had a slow start because that is not the natural place for people who
use drugs to go for services," she said. "But now we are seeing that
people are going and using the service, so that is great news."

The number of people using the prevention site is increasing daily, said

"We are having people that are attending more than once throughout the day."

The overdose prevention site is open from 12:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., Tuesday
to Saturday, and the plan is to operate the mobile unit from noon to
midnight, Tuesday to Saturday.
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