Community feedback sought on supervised consumption services in Victoria

November 15, 2016

VICTORIA – Island Health is seeking feedback on a proposed model and locations for supervised consumption services prior to submitting an application to Health Canada.

The Province of BC is supporting all health authorities to submit applications for supervised consumption services in response to the current overdose emergency crisis in the province. The Province is also calling for the federal government to either repeal or amend Bill C-2, the “Respect for Communities Act,” so that it does not stand in the way of establishing additional supervised consumption services in British Columbia.

“Additional supervised consumption services is one of the key items we’re working on as part of our overdose response strategy,” said Health Minister Terry Lake. “In nearly 15 years of operation, more than 3 million injections have taken place at Insite in Vancouver and not one person has died of an overdose. The evidence on them is very clear and demonstrates that they would be of great benefit to Vancouver Island.”

The proposed Victoria service model and locations are a result of months of work involving Island Health, informed by the City of Victoria, Victoria Police and YES2SCS – a community campaign that has long advocated for supervised consumption services.

“Supervised consumption services save lives, improve health, connect people with needed services, reduce community impact associated with public drug use and decrease long term health care costs,” said Dr. Richard Stanwick, Island Health’s Chief Medical Health Officer. “Our community has experienced a rapid increase in overdose deaths associated with the current opioid crisis, and these services are urgently needed in Victoria and within the rest of Island Health’s service area.”

The planning group has been working since January 2016 to develop a model for supervised consumption services in Victoria that will meet the needs of the local community, including persons with lived experience, service organizations that provide supports to people who use illicit drugs and other vulnerable populations, law enforcement and local residents and businesses.

“The City of Victoria has long recognized supervised consumption services as an important strategy in supporting our marginalized populations, and this was confirmed in our 2015 City of Victoria Strategic Plan,” said Lisa Helps, Mayor, City of Victoria. “We are confident the service model being put forward will support individuals who use drugs while at the same time reduce the impact of public drug use in our community.”

A distributed, multi-site model for supervised consumption services is being proposed for Victoria. Under this model, services would be offered at several locations as part of broader, integrated health and social services that will also be provided at the same locations. These ancillary services may include public health services, mental health and substance use supports and referrals, engagement and connection with other social and health services.  Island Health, with input from the planning group, has developed a service approach and location criteria to ensure locations meet the needs of clients while also balancing the needs of residential and commercial neighbours. 

“Public safety and community health remain top priorities for us, particularly in light of the current health crisis,” Victoria Police Department Acting Chief Constable, Del Manak said. “We believe that a distributed model for delivering supervised consumption services will allow users access to important harm reduction alternatives in the same geographic areas where they currently receive community supports.”

A distributed model provides access to harm reduction while at the same time reducing or eliminating a potential increase in volume associated with a single service point model, Del Manak continued.

“The evidence points to this type of community health initiative as an important part of a comprehensive health strategy designed to reduce the harm illicit drugs cause communities. We are optimistic this initiative will reduce public drug consumption, reduce the discarding of drug consumption supplies in public spaces, and reduce reported incidents of public disorder overall,” the Acting Chief Constable said.

Based on research and data that shows where individuals inject drugs, where overdose calls are reported and where other services are located, the Downtown and Rock Bay areas have been identified as high priority locations for supervised consumption services in the City of Victoria region. Within these areas, specific locations at 941 Pandora Avenue and 2920 Bridge Street have been identified as potential locations for publicly-accessible supervised consumption and ancillary services. 

In  response to the need for additional health and mental health and substance use services at the Johnson Street Community (former Central Care Home at 844 Johnson Street), Island Health and PHS Community Services Society which operates the building will be formalizing drug use supervision among other clinical services provided to residents at this location. This service will be embedded in other health and social supports for residents and available to residents only. Services will not be available to the public/non-residents. 

Details about each proposed location are available at www.viha.ca/scs.

The distributed supervised consumption service model will complement new and existing substance use beds in Victoria. Island Health is adding 25 new adult treatment beds and six youth beds by March 31, 2017. This is in addition to 80 adult and nine youth substance use beds currently in existence on the South Island.

“YES2SCS has advocated since 2014 to increase understanding and raise awareness around how supervised consumption services work and how effective these services are in addressing personal and community impacts of drug use and meeting the needs of individuals who use drugs,” said Bruce Wallace with YES2SCS, and Collaborating Scientist, Centre for Addictions Research of BC. “We welcome formal supervised consumption services to Victoria.”  

Over the coming weeks, Island Health will seek feedback on the proposed supervised consumption service model and service locations. In addition to targeted stakeholder meetings, two drop-in public meetings will be held:

  • November 22 in Burnside-Gorge/Rock Bay (Centennial United Church from 4 pm to 7 pm)
  • November 23 in downtown Victoria (City Hall from 4 pm to 7 pm)

Feedback can also be provided via email (scs@viha.ca) and through an online survey available through www.viha.ca/scs. Feedback received before December 2, 2016 will be evaluated and incorporated as required for the application for exemption to Health Canada. Island Health has also met, and continues to meet with a cross-section of service providers that deliver programs to individuals who use illicit drugs. Feedback from these organizations and individuals will also inform the service model and service approach.

Extensive information about supervised consumption services, including the proposed service model, location criteria and proposed locations is available at www.viha.ca/scs.


Media Inquiries

Island Health 
Kellie Hudson

City of Victoria
Councillor Marianne Alto

Bruce Wallace

Victoria Police Department
Cst. Matt Rutherford