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Drug consumption sites not lowering B.C.'s mortality rate: study

FILE PHOTO - A room in Vernon overdose prevention site.

Overdose prevention and supervised consumption sites did not decrease B.C.’s mortality rate or monthly hospitalizations, but evidence shows they reduce ambulance calls and emergency room visits, according to a recent study.

Between 2015 to 2017, McGill professor Dimitra Panagiotoglou studied new overdose prevention sites, including two mobile units in Kamloops and Kelowna and measured how effective they were in the communities. Her results were published in a study March 22.

The study said overdose prevention and supervised consumption sites remain “politically controversial and, until recently, cumbersome to implement. Some policymakers, residents and business operators continue to vehemently oppose their implementation on moral grounds, and beliefs that these harm reduction interventions: a) encourage drug-related crimes and public consumption, b) condone rather than treat addiction, and c) burden limited health resources.”

There are critical gaps in studies that contribute to the underrating of the sites however, as much of the evidence recorded is specific to the concentrated drug use epidemics of Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside and Sidney’s "red light" district prior to the opioid crisis, Panagiotoglou wrote in the study.

“Additional research is needed to understand the effects of operating hours, service volume, residence requirements and police presence. Studies quantifying the impacts of (supervised consumption sites) as low barrier access to other health services for marginalized populations may identify additional benefits.”

A permanent drug consumption site is opening in downtown Kamloops.

Eleven people in Kamloops died as a result of a poisoned illicit drug supply in January, making it the third most affected city in the province as the health crisis continues.

READ MORE: Permanent supervised drug consumption site coming to downtown Kamloops

B.C. has been hardest hit out of any province in Canada during the overdose crisis. A public health emergency was first declared in 2016, according to the report.

Interior Health did not return a request for comment by Thursday’s news deadline.

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