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Spike in overdoses puts Kamloops in discussion for safe injection site

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May 27, 2016 - 6:30 PM

KAMLOOPS -  A safe injection site is being considered for Kamloops.

Provincial health minister Terry Lake says a number of health authorities are looking into safe injection sites following the success at Vancouver’s safe consumption service, including Interior Health Authority.

“Interior Health is looking at possibly Kamloops, possibly Kelowna,” he says. “They’ll have to look at the data and work with organizations like ASK Wellness and the street workers to see if in fact it makes sense to do it here.”

While no decisions have been made, a plan for community input is being developed, Dr. Silvina Mema, a medical health officer with the health authority, says in an email.

“Kamloops is one of the largest cities in our region and data shows a high number of overdose deaths in the community, we need to consider Kamloops as a possible location for a safe consumption service,” she says.

Lake says the ministry recognizes safe injection sites can be valuable.

“Having a safe injection site would probably reduce the number of overdose deaths for sure,” he says. “We know with the kind of material that’s out on the street at the moment, particularly fentanyl, that the risk of overdose death is greater than ever.”

Mema says safe consumption services have been shown to reduce overdose deaths. She says the health authority is considering many options, not just safe consumption.

Lake says the province is still waiting to see signs of improvement since declaring a provincial state of emergency earlier this year because of opioid overdose deaths.

“We know that for the first four months of the year we’re seeing a year over year increase over 2015, which was a record year,” he says. “We haven’t got the numbers for May yet, I’m hopeful we’ll start to see those numbers drop off.”

Mema says the process is just beginning and can take months. A site location is up to the health authority, Lake says, but it's not exclusive to one community — they could go in several. 

"It would be up to them to look at whether there's a health business case for a safe injection site in any community," he says. "They're the ones who design the health care delivery for the region."

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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