Pubdate: Wed, 21 Jun 2017
Source: Victoria Times-Colonist (CN BC)
Copyright: 2017 Times Colonist
Author: Sarah Petrescu
Page: A4


Victoria's first federally approved supervised drug-consumption
service will likely be in the supported-housing building on Johnson
Street that houses former tent city residents, says Island Health's
chief medical health officer.

Dr. Richard Stanwick said the site at 844 Johnson St. would be the
first on the Island to embed supervised drug-consumption with housing.

Island Health said Tuesday the application for the site was recently
submitted to the federal government. Stanwick said he's hoping for
rapid approval, adding it could open "very soon" once it's approved.
The building is already home to an overdose-prevention site.

"There's very little to do at the [Johnson Street] building.
Basically, change the sign and add services."

Health Canada will not give time estimates on the approval

This is the health authority's second application for
supervised-consumption services. The first, at 941 Pandora Ave., was
submitted in January.

But Stanwick said that space, which requires extensive renovations and
includes 10 injection booths, would not likely open before next spring.

Application plans for a third site are on hold.

The former Central Care Home at 844 Johnson, now called Johnson Street
Community, is owned by B.C. Housing and managed by PHS Community Services.

The 147-unit building was purchased by the province in 2016 to house
homeless people living in the tent city on the nearby courthouse grounds.

There has been an overdose-prevention site at the building since
December 2016, one of several opened across the Island as an emergency
measure in response to the overdose crisis.

Island Health said since that time, about 170 residents and their
guests have used the site.

Out of nearly 4,000 visits to inject illicit substances, there were
two overdoses but no deaths.

Two people died from suspected overdoses in the building, but not at
the prevention site, Stanwick said.

"This building is a prime example of how services can connect with
people where they are."

Andy Bond from PHS said the overdose-prevention room has had a
stabilizing effect on the building.

He said the number of overdoses in the building is down and staff are
better able to respond to them.

"In the past, when staff [responded], it was almost always after a
significant amount of time had elapsed," he said.

It took time, he said, for someone to run and alert staff, to gather
an emergency kit and oxygen, and then finally to get to the person,
who could be on any one of the four floors.

"The effect of that lost time is that the person is cyanotic, blueish
from a lack of oxygen, with a very low pulse, which can result in
brain damage. For staff, it is very stressful, scary, sad and

Federal approval will give the site long-term stability and added
addiction services, he said. That could include access to additional
opioid-substitution therapies and more doctors' services.

In the first four months of 2017, 488 people in B.C. died from
overdoses. There were 84 deaths on the Island, including 37 in
Victoria. Statistics for May will be released by the coroners service
next week.

Stanwick said he doesn't expect to see a decline in the numbers, given
that potentially deadly fentanyl has been turning up in all kinds of
illicit drugs. "That's worrisome and we have to act," he said.

He'd like to see supervised-consumption services on the north Island,
Duncan and Nanaimo. Plans for a Nanaimo application are on hold, after
city council refused to change a bylaw preventing the services.
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