Vernon will soon have its first, permanent overdose prevention site - InfoNews

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Vernon will soon have its first, permanent overdose prevention site

The interior of Vernon's safe injection site is pictured in this undated image.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED / Interior Health Authority
May 11, 2020 - 3:18 PM

Interior Health has announced Vernon will soon be getting an overdose prevention site and it will be located in city's downtown.

Representatives from the Interior Health Authority made the announcement today, May 11, at the City of Vernon’s council meeting. The overdose prevention site will be located downtown at 3306A 32 Avenue and open Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. No set date was given as to when the clinic would open but Interior Health indicated it would be soon.

The announcement came roughly 12 months after Interior Health put a plan to open an overdose prevention site on pause to conduct more community consultation.

Interior Health director of clinical operations Colleen McEwan said it had spoken to a wide sector of the community and heard feedback both for and against the clinic’s downtown location. McEwan said the building is already occupied by Interior Health and the clinic will be run by Interior Health and not contracted out to a third party company.  

“It’s located directly across from my office,” Councillor Brian Quiring told the meeting. “I think it is probably the right location for it.”

Quiring said he wasn’t “delighted” by it but he would not oppose it. He said the current use of the building, which many marginalized people use, has had no negative affect on his business.

Councillor Dalvir Nahal questioned why the clinic wasn’t open in the evening and the weekends and asked if overdoses were more frequent during those times?

“Overdoses happen all the time, not just in the evening and not just at the weekend,” McEwan said.

McEwan said feedback from the community showed many people were concerned about crowds gathering outside the clinic and the hours were a way of mitigating this.

Councillor Scott Anderson questioned Interior Health’s reasoning for choosing the site, asking how many downtown businesses supported the location of the site. Anderson asked if Interior Health had made the decision on the site and then told people where it was going.

McEwan said this was not the case and that Interior Health had consulted with the public and stakeholders.

Anderson also asked if Interior Health had done an economic impact study, and was told they had not.

The councillor said there were 2.3 million diabetics in Canada and asked what Interior Health were doing for diabetics?

“I’m not here to answer that,” McEwan told him.

Councillor Kari Gares said she would like to see the clinic in a different place but would support the chosen location.

Councillor Kelly Fehr said he was glad the clinic was opening and that overdose prevention sites were part of the solution to the opioid crisis.

The overdose prevention site will be staffed by a team of 16 as well as two psychiatrists and would provide multiple services to people dealing with substance abuse issues.

In 2019, there were 15 overdose deaths in Vernon and so far in 2020 there have been four overdose deaths.

Correction: The story was updated 11:50 a.m. Tuesday, May 12, 2020, to use the name, overdose prevention site. An earlier version of this story used the name, safe injection site.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Ben Bulmer or call (250) 309-5230 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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