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Safe drug consumption services get support from Kamloops council

FILE PHOTO - An injection kit is shown at Insite, a safe injection facility in Vancouver, on Tuesday, May 6, 2008.
Image Credit: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
September 14, 2016 - 2:30 PM

LOCATION OF SAFE CONSUMPTION SITE STILL UP FOR DEBATE

KAMLOOPS - City council has unanimously voted to support safe drug consumption services in Kamloops.

While Health Canada ultimately holds the final decision, council has voted unanimously to support the principal of safe drug consumption sites.

Council was responding to a presentation from Interior Health Authority medical health officer Dr. Silvina Mema who discussed research from Vancouver's Insite service and the surge in overdoses and overdose deaths in Kamloops.

“We were hoping for support. It is also a surprise,” she says. “We didn’t ask for it. It came from their own initiative.”

Currently the Interior Health Authority is looking for locations. Depending on funding and options, there could be two locations, one in the downtown area and one on the North Shore. Some councillors spoke in favour of two locations due to the geography of the city and Thompson Rivers.

“We would definitely consider two locations if that’s what the community sees as the best possible solution,” Mema says. “Having one site may be seen as we are polarizing the community.”

The health authority wants to pair the safe consumption services with an existing organization or service. Mema says Royal Inland Hospital may be considered, but isn't sure it would be the right fit.

Coun. Tine Lange was one of the more vocal supporters of safe consumption services, and pointed not only does it make sense as a strategy for helping those addicted to drugs, but added there’s a business case for neighbourhoods currently seeing drug use.

“You hear from business owners that tourists are complaining about open drug use on our streets,” she says. “To remove that, or remove a majority of it, means businesses are going to do better and tourists are going to be happier.”

She adds people struggling with addictions can also cost the community as a whole as they typically require emergency and social services more often.

Coun. Ken Christian raised concerns about staffing a service, which would require 24/7 operation, and whether Kamloops was the right location for services, due to the city’s size.

While safe consumption services are a positive step, funding is needed for social housing and treatment facilities to really see things move forward, ASK Wellness executive director Bob Hughes says.

“Our organization does not believe in simply providing people an opportunity to consumer drugs without a proportionate opportunity to get well,” he says. “Getting well means going into detox, to be able to go to treatment and to have adequate housing in our community."

“Our greatest fear with this model, done in isolation of investment in detox and an investment in housing is that we ghettoize neighbourhoods where people can consume these substances and then have no where to go when they ask for help.”

Hughes says while ASK Wellness supports the creation of safe consumption services in Kamloops, the organizations North Shore outreach location wouldn't be a good fit.


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