Pubdate: Fri, 04 Aug 2017
Source: Victoria Times-Colonist (CN BC)
Copyright: 2017 Times Colonist
Author: Sarah Petrescu
Page: A1


The federal government has approved the first supervised consumption
site in Victoria for illicit drug users, but it will be at least a
year before it opens.

"This is going to save lives and take us beyond what our overdose
prevention sites are doing," said Dr. Richard Stanwick, chief medical
officer for Island Health. "Now they won't be a stop-gap measure, they
are a bridge."

The site approved by Health Canada is at 941 Pandora Ave. and will be
called the Pandora Community Health and Wellness Centre. It's next to
Our Place Society, which offers various services to Victoria's
vulnerable citizens.

An overdose prevention site is operating there under emergency orders
as a measure to cope with the overdose crisis. That site is run from a
shipping container, with two booths for injection, harm-reduction
supplies, a paramedic and outreach workers on-hand.

It's one of eight overdose prevention sites that have opened on
Vancouver Island in the past year. Island Health said Thursday there
have been 26,600 visits to the sites and 310 overdoses but no deaths.

"We know they work," said Stanwick. "This is just one component we're
adding [to deal with the overdose crisis]."

The new centre will open in spring or summer 2018 after a $1.1-million
renovation and include 10 consumption booths.

It will offer integrated health services, including mental-health
counselling, a nursing clinic and referrals to addiction treatment

Stanwick said the health authority will spend about $200,000 on
equipment and $700,000 on staffing each year, with the hope of tapping
into provincial funding. Kelowna, Kamloops, Surrey and Vancouver have
also had sites recently approved.

Island Health has a second application with the federal government for
a site at the former Central Care Home housing building at 844 Johnson
St. The building was bought by the province to house homeless people
from the tent city on the courthouse lawn in 2016 and had an
overdose-prevention site open last year for residents and guests. Once
approved, the supervised consumption site could open

Stanwick said the residential site could be a model for other places
across Vancouver Island, where services designed for big cities might
not fit in small communities.

"The challenge is how do we adapt and tailor these services for
different communities, especially in smaller places where stigma might
affect access," he said, noting people might feel more comfortable
accessing services in clinics where it isn't apparent they are using

Grant McKenzie, communications director for Our Place, said he's glad
to see the federally approved site and health centre move ahead but
worries about the interim.

"We often have people waiting to get in here," he said, adding he
hopes the shipping container can be expanded or replaced with
something bigger. "Now, if people come to the pod and it's full,
instead of waiting they will go to a dangerous area to use … we are
responding to about 10 overdoses a week in the building and on the
street (but no deaths)."

Jack Phillips from the Society of Illicit Drug Users works in harm
reduction with Our Place. He said as long as dangerous and unregulated
drugs are on the streets the overdose crisis will continue -
regardless of more supervised sites.

"As long as people are using crap drugs they will overdose and
continue to die," said Phillips, who wants to see more access to
opiate replacement therapies that work.

More than 1,700 people have died in B.C. from illicit drug overdoses
since 2016.
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