Overdose prevention site set for Vernon, but details vague | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Overdose prevention site set for Vernon, but details vague

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January 23, 2019 - 12:15 PM

VERNON - Interior Health is bringing an overdose prevention site to Vernon, but the where, when and cost are still up in the air.

Danielle Cameron, health service administrator for mental health and substance abuse with Interior Health, said they've been trying to set up an overdose prevention site in Vernon since the start of the opioid crisis. She said the city's high numbers of overdoses make Vernon a prime candidate for the site.

Overdose prevention sites provide spaces for people to use drugs in a supervised environment. The idea behind the sites is to offer a safe space for drug users and to provide immediate emergency responses for overdoses, hopefully saving lives.

Cameron said while there may be a public perception that these sites encourage drug use, their main function is to reach out to drug users and save their lives while also providing a route to recovery for those who want it.

"The service connects with people who are going to do drugs anyway," she said. "We can start having meaningful conversations."

Interior Health offers mobile and stationary overdose prevention services in Kelowna and Kamloops. Cameron said they're not sure if the Vernon unit will occupy a building or be more flexible. She noted they plan to focus the site near high-risk people.

Cameron couldn't disclose the price tag for the prevention site, but she noted that the high overdose rate in Vernon and across B.C. is putting a strain on healthcare finances.

"Overdoses are costing our healthcare system," she said.

Cameron said the group planning the overdose prevention site is open to input and feedback from the community. She noted a facilitator from Vernon joined the group to represent the city.

"Keep the conversation open," she said.

Cameron doesn't have a firm opening date for the prevention site, but she expects it to be ready sometime this year. She hopes the site will be able to make a different for Vernon once it's fully operational.

"We know [overdoses are] hitting Vernon hard," she said.

Interior Health has been providing a free and anonymous drug checking service once a week at the Downtown Vernon Primary Care Clinic since August in Vernon in response to the opioid overdose crisis.

Find past stories on opioid crisis here.

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