Resource centre given just one week to become Kelowna's first safe consumption site - InfoNews

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Resource centre given just one week to become Kelowna's first safe consumption site

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Image Credit: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
December 13, 2016 - 1:00 PM

KELOWNA – Clare MacDonald and her staff don’t mind at all that they were given just one week to prepare to become Kelowna’s first overdose prevention site – the need is too great.

“The faces we have lost are faces we have known so for us it’s personal," she says. "It’s short notice but it’s so exciting that we’re willing to work overtime.”

MacDonald is the executive director of the Living Positive Resource Centre, one of two in the city that were chosen as a safe space where people with addictions can take drugs somewhere with a nurse or paramedic nearby.

“A lot of people use alone or in places where help is not relatively available,” she says. “(The Centre) means they will have another option in terms of keeping themselves safe while using substances. They are going to be helped quickly when overdose does occur.”

The Living Positive Resource Centre was chosen, she says, because they are already positioned on the front lines of a growing health crisis.

“We are already a harm reduction service. We already have a relationship with the people and these are people we know. We have been giving out naloxone kits and training people how to use them for years now so we were the most logical choice when it came to a quick decision.”

MacDonald says the first she heard that her centre could be tapped was last Friday and they only found out today, Dec. 13 that they would be open to the public by the end of the week.

Many of the details are still being ironed out, but on Friday, Dec. 16 Kelowna will have two overdose prevention sites – one in Rutland on Asher Road and another at the recently vacated former Kelowna Health Centre on Ellis Street.

Interior Health is currently applying to the federal government for an exemption that would allow a true supervised consumption site, but there’s little difference other than semantics. It is a safe consumption site but it won't be fully supervised.

“This is not a supervised site, no one is watching anybody, this is a safe place where people can come and use with a nurse or a paramedic on site,” MacDonald says. “I know it’s not a huge difference, but we need to do whatever we can to save lives.”

Security, staffing and just about every other detail are still being sorted out but MacDonald says they will start small and err on the side of caution.

“We’re certainly concerned with the security of our clients and are talking with Interior Health about security. We will be making sure security is taken care of.”

She says to start, there will likely be a minimum two people on site in addition to security and they will be open from noon until 7 p.m. And even though the facility will not be extravagant, she expects it to be well used.

“It will be pretty bare bones, tables, chairs and staff and that may be about it,” she says. “But currently we see around 150 people pick up needles from us once a month. It will start as a trickle but I think it will be a popular service.”

The idea of a safe consumption site has been contentious and many downtown businesses and associations have come out against it, however MacDonald says the fentanyl crisis is far too urgent to delay any further.

“We get the question daily ‘when are you guys going to open a supervised site?’” she says. “It’s important to highlight that this is an initiative to save lives but the secondary piece is going to be the benefit to the community. There will be fewer people hiding in alleyways… and hopefully will reduce the number of sharps being found in the community. It’s not a (supervised consumption site) but it’s the next best thing."


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