KAMLOOPS - The first incarnation of future supervised consumption services will be on the streets of Kamloops and Kelowna this spring.
Two new mobile overdose prevention sites are planned for Kamloops and Kelowna, potentially on the road in April or earlier. The services, which will be based in retrofitted RV-style vehicles, would become mobile supervised consumption services if Health Canada approves the Interior Health Authority’s application, senior medical health officer Dr. Trevor Corneil says.
Getting the vehicles now will move the discussion around mobile harm reduction services from conceptual to physical.
“This will allow people to, rather than talk about a concept, they’ll get a feel for what is going on with overdose prevention services,” he says. “There’ll be a practical level of experience before this concept of supervision is brought in.”
The mobile services have already been discussed with stakeholders, he says. How they integrate into the current services is still being worked out as the health authority monitors the four current sites in Kamloops and Kelowna.
“Whether it replaces one of, or both of, the sites that are currently existing is unknown at this time,” he says. “If a fixed site is working that means it’s the right service and will stay.”
The mobile versions will be set up like Kelowna’s Ellis Street site and be able to provide a variety of medical, counselling and health care engagement. Corneil says the main difference between the overdose prevention sites and supervised consumption services is what’s allowed under the law, which the health authority intends to follow.
“[The overdose prevention sites] are right now following the letter of the law, which they have to do,” he says.
Those services, as well as reacting to any nearby overdoses, are what the current overdose prevention sites already do. They started in December.
The advantage of the mobile sites is the flexibility. They’ll be able to visit two locations a day, and travel out of town to Vernon or Penticton. If the health authority does have the supervised consumption services approved and the vehicles are driven to other cities, they won’t be able to provide supervision there, though. The licenses are for locations, not the vehicle itself.
“I do want to be clear, the biggest need, where we’re seeing the most overdoses is in Kamloops and Kelowna,” he says. “That is where we’re starting. We really need to make some dent in what we know are very high risk cities right now.”
The health authority is almost ready to send in completed applications to Health Canada and is watching what is happening with applications for sites in Montreal.
“They’ll have our application fully in hand in the next week or two,” he says. “We already have it with the B.C. ministries.”
Kamloops city council still needs to provide an official letter as part of the application, which will likely happen at the next council meeting Feb. 21.
For now, the overdose prevention services will work close to the legal limit, Corneil says.
“It’s all about people doing less risky things and moving away from and reducing the harm of using their drugs,” he says. “Engaging with them and pulling them back from what is clearly an abyss and walking them back to less use, cleaner use.
“It really is about helping the client all the way back to recovery.”
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