Pubdate: Tue, 17 Jan 2017
Source: Nanaimo News Bulletin (CN BC)
Copyright: 2017, BC Newspaper Group
Author: Tamara Cunningham
Page: A1


Island Health aims to open an overdose prevention site at Nanaimo's Wesley
Street supportive housing complex this month.

At a special council meeting Thursday, Nanaimo council authorized the use
of 437 Wesley St., a supportive housing complex for people who are
homeless or at risk of homelessness, to be used for Island Health's
temporary overdose prevention service.

Council also called for changes to the lease agreement between the city
and province on the building and to the operating agreement to allow the
property to be used for overdose prevention services through the existing
operator, Canadian Mental Health Association, as well as to move forward
on a joint public engagement process with Island Health for this site and
a more permanent service.

The move follows a meeting between city council and Island Health
officials on Wednesday.

Island Health has been under an order from the B.C. Health Minister since
Dec. 9 to establish an overdose prevention service, where drug users at
risk of an overdose can be monitored and intervention is on hand. It's
considered a more temporary measure with a longer-term supervised
consumption site requiring an application to federal government.

Initially 526 Wentworth St., was named Island Health's planned site for
overdose prevention.

Dr. Paul Hasselback, Island Health's medical health officer for central
Vancouver Island, told the News Bulletin that there was a preference for
Wesley Street but it wasn't an option from an Island Health perspective
unless the city was willing to bring it forward, which it did.

He said the physical structure is better at Wesley Street, as is access
and proximity of where the need seems to be.

"We did have a concern, as did others, about the location of Pauline
Haarer [Elementary] School being closer to Wentworth and so truly an
attempt to try to put some separation between populations that might
perceive that as being a threat," he said. "We've learned from our friends
that have put the pop-up in is it's well accepted, people come and go,
it's not causing any angst or anxiety, it's actually improving or
enhancing the immediate surrounding environments.

"The pop-up also is closer to the Wesley Street location so when the time
comes to transition the clientele going there it's actually going to be
easier to do."

The pop-up supervised consumption site is unsanctioned and has been
operating in the city hall parking lot since Dec. 26.

Coun. Gord Fuller, involved with the site, said it will shut down the
minute Wesley Street's temporary site opens.

"In the meantime, we can inform people that this is where we are working
to get it so that they know where it's going to go," he said.

The hope is to have Wesley Street site mobilized by the end of January,
according to Hasselback.
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