Mobile illicit drug consumption site the way to go in Kelowna - InfoNews

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Mobile illicit drug consumption site the way to go in Kelowna

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January 17, 2017 - 4:41 PM

KELOWNA – The director of a local addictions resource centre says Interior Health’s decision to apply for mobile supervised illicit drug consumption sites has been well-received by the people who will use them.

Interior Health announced last week rather than apply for a Federal exemption for fixed, supervised consumption sites downtown and in Rutland, they would refit an RV and create Canada’s first mobile supervised consumption site, able to be moved to hot spots around the city.

“When we asked users what they wanted, people outside the downtown area said they wouldn’t access a fixed site,” Living Positive director Clare MacDonald says. “We serve Rutland, the Rutland population is against it being just downtown.”

Living Positive Resource Centre was one of two Kelowna centres chosen as safe consumption sites, essentially a supervised consumption site with a different name and different legal restrictions. MacDonald and her staff were given just one week to prepare for the change, however just before they were set to open the landlord refused permission after another tenant threatened to move out.

It is a clear illustration of the difficulties consumption site advocates like MacDonald face as they fight on the front lines of a public health crisis.

“It’s really disappointing to be told you can’t do something that’s going to save lives because some people are not willing to engage in the conversation.”

MacDonald says she does not know how large a role the 'not in my backyard' mentality played in Interior Health's decision to go mobile, but acknowledges it was a factor.

“The assumption is that it’s going to create a whole bunch of people hanging around outside causing chaos,” she says. “Really what it is, is stigma and judgements. It’s just the stubbornness of not wanting to even see if this will improve the area.”

Although details of the mobile site are still being discussed, MacDonald says it will likely be an RV fitted with booths for at least two users at a time. It will require power so she foresees it being parked in a municipal parking lot or possibly even a private parking lot.

Find past stories on the fentanyl crisis here.

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