Kamloops council endorses supervised drug consumption sites - InfoNews

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Kamloops council endorses supervised drug consumption sites

March 15, 2017 - 2:30 PM

KAMLOOPS - The two locations for a mobile supervised drug consumption service have been picked with the support of the city, the Interior Health Authority and harm reduction advocates.

The mobile service, if approved, will be located at 493 Tranquille Rd. and 569 Seymour St. on a regular basis. Those sites are the ASK Wellness outreach centre on the North Shore and the Crossroads Inn in downtown, the locations of the current overdose prevention sites started in December.

In a presentation to council, yesterday, March 14, Interior Health manager Tara Mochizuki said the locations were chosen with stakeholder feedback and after looking at the results of the overdose prevention sites. Since they opened in December 2016 the sites have seen almost 2,400 interactions and directly saved nine lives. How many individuals have used it is unclear, as names for each interaction aren’t recorded.

“Lots of people are people we haven’t actually seen through substance use services and other services in our city,” she says. “We are seeing them newly through the overdose prevention sites.”

The mobile sites will be set up first as overdose prevention sites, likely in April, and will not have supervised consumption until Health Canada approves the application, which should be submitted by the end of the month. Michozuki hopes the supervised consumption approval comes by the summer.

If the application is approved the service will operate from 11:30 a.m. to 7:30 a.m Tuesday to Saturday. More hours may be considered if funding allows it.

The supervised consumption sites have funding for a year from Interior Health. Outreach workers at the two locations working through ASK Wellness also have six more months of funding. Their initial funding was due to run out at the end of March.

Bob Hughes, the executive director of ASK Wellness, was initially skeptical of supervised sites when they were first discussed for Kamloops, but says the pilot program as it stands is a big step forward.

“We’ve got to try something. Is it perfect? We don’t know, it’s never been done before in North America,” he says. “At the end of the day if we’ve got resources like this to make a dent in homelessness and to change the course of this epidemic then its worth the risk of starting.”

He says he’s committed to making sure the situation doesn’t deteriorate into something like Vancouver’s infamous downtown eastside. If the program isn’t working he’s willing to push for the mobile sites to move.

Mochizuki alos shared with council more about what the service will look like.

Interior Health is working to retrofit an RV for Kamloops, with equipment for the service and ventilation. Inside would be an area for the supervised consumption. The site would be staffed for at least two people, a nurse and social worker with specialized skills in outreach.

Council reacted positively to the presentation and unanimously endorsed a letter of support to be included with Interior Health’s application to the federal government to allow for supervision of illicit drug consumption.

Mayor Peter Milobar said a year ago he would not have been in favour of sites like this, but in the current climate with fentanyl and potentially worse drugs on the black market he’s behind the program now.

“A lot has changed out there in terms of the public safety health risk,” he says. “Fentanyl is definitely a game changer.”

To contact a reporter for this story, email Brendan Kergin or call 250-819-6089 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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