Pubdate: Fri, 24 Feb 2017
Source: Victoria News (CN BC)
Copyright: 2017 Black Press
Author: Kendra Wong


When Jack Phillips looks at the empty parking lot at 2920 Bridge St.
in Rock Bay, he sees endless possibilities.

It could be transformed into a garden, a bike shop or an area for
people to bring their dogs. But most importantly, he sees a community
harm reduction health centre and a supervised injection site by and
for people who use drugs.

Phillips is a street outreach coordinator and naloxone trainer with
SOLID, an organization that provides support and education to drug
users in Victoria. Now, Phillips, along with SOLID and other community
groups, are calling on the Vancouver Island Health Authority and the
City of Victoria to open a supervised injection site on Bridge Street
to combat the growing number of overdoses in the province.

The proposed site will operate as a harm reduction community health
centre by and for people who use drugs. Advocates hope the centre will
also include a range of treatment options tailored to individual needs
and that police entry will be limited.

"If we're given the opportunity to work in a harm reduction
environment without the eyes of security and police and hopefully the
decriminalization of these drugs will be a huge help in ending the
crisis state that we're in," Phillips said.

"This is a job we want to do, we want to serve this community. By
giving us a permanent site, it would give us the building blocks to
start doing that important work and then come to a point where we're
building community for everyone."

Calls to open the Bridge Street injection site came on the national
day of action, in which groups hoped to raise awareness of the
overdose crisis that's plagued the province in recent months.

According to the B.C. Coroners Service, in January, 116 people in the
province died of an illicit drug overdose - an average of seven deaths
every two days. Of those 116 people, seven were in Victoria.

Discussions are still ongoing regarding a supervised consumption
service at Rock Bay, said Island Health, as they need to take into
account building and infrastructure limitations, costs of renovations
and the need to consider that similar services must be established in
other areas around Vancouver Island as well.

However, the health authority isn't ignoring the area. Earlier this
month, it opened an overdose prevention service at 535 Ellice St.,
which provides emergency shelter, transitional housing and support
services for high risk, vulnerable populations.

But Shane Calder with Allies of Drug War Survivors said the current
service in Rock Bay doesn't offer a "culturally safe" environment and
wants a more comprehensive model for addictions treatment. "You want
some recreation. We need to be able to have resources that also
recognizes that people are still human beings," Calder said.

Last year, the health authority submitted an application to the
federal government for a supervised injection site at 941 Pandora
Ave., which is pending approval. Our Place Society has since opened a
pop-up injection site and has been used successfully by hundreds of
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