July 20, 2016 - 5:30 PM
OVERDOSE RATE THIS YEAR IN HEALTH AUTHORITY ALMOST DOUBLE THAT OF 2015
THOMPSON-OKANAGAN - News the Interior Health Authority has already suffered the same number of overdose deaths thus far this year as it did for the whole of 2015 is adding new urgency to efforts to establish safe consumption services in the larger centres.
But the exacting community consultation process required by the federal government means it will be at least 2017 before such services could begin operating, senior medical health officer Dr. Trevor Corneil says, and that’s without knowing how long Health Canada will take to make a decision once they’ve received an official application.
Corneil says an incident management team assigned to the overdose crisis has begun the detailed consultation process required under federal bill C-2, the Respect for Communities Act.
The team is working with counterparts in the Fraser and Island health authorities which are also submitting applications to allow safe consumption services.
The hope is to have the required community consultations complete by the end of September with an application submitted by the end of the year, Corneil adds. Kelowna and Kamloops would be the first in line for safe consumption services.
Once given the green light by Health Canada, Corneil says the health authority could have a service in place and operating within three months, depending on what the service entails.
“It could be as simple as having a supervising nurse and appointments during certain times of the day, somewhere there already is a nurse on duty,” he says. "If we got a yes (we could have it operating) within three months. We’d like to have it up and running sooner rather than later.”
Corneil says the intervention team is anxious to see a service in place and is acutely aware of the steadily mounting number of overdose deaths both provincially and within the Interior Health Authority. There has been 64 overdose deaths within the health authority service area to the end of June.
“The rate of deaths has not decreased and we need to find a way to step up our interventions as quickly as possible,” he adds. “We’ve been asking ourselves is it really the time to have long conversations about this. There has been a lot of time spent over-engaging."
While the federal Liberals have been supportive of safe consumption services, Corneil says they haven’t moved to modify Bill C-2 and streamline the process.
“We’ve asked them that question but they are interested in seeing our applications and understanding what the barriers are,” he says.
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