“Island Health is committed to establishing a distributed, multi-site model of supervised consumption services in Victoria, with a range of harm reduction, public health and mental health and substance use programs embedded with supervised consumption service provision,” said Dr. Richard Stanwick, Chief Medical Health Officer with Island Health. “While Island Health is pleased we have been able to establish and fund two – and soon to be three – overdose prevention sites in Victoria, the long-term objective has always been to deliver a more integrated, client-centred supervised consumption service.”
The application for 941 Pandora Avenue was couriered to Federal Health Minister Jane Philpott on January 3. The building is owned by Island Health and already delivers a range of public health and mental health and substance use services, including street outreach nursing and Assertive Community Treatment (ACT) teams. With the addition of supervised consumption services, the new service location will be called the Pandora Community Health Centre. Programming will be done in conjunction with the health and social services operated by Our Place Society, which is located immediately adjacent to 941 Pandora Avenue.
Extensive renovations will be required to the site to accommodate the new service. This includes the creation of additional and separate access and exit doors, a consumption area that will accommodate up to 10 consumptions booths, a waiting/reception area and post-use area. Further changes will take place to better accommodate the existing services while some of these services will likely have to be relocated.
“Island Health anticipates it will be several months before the Pandora Community Health Centre will offer supervised consumption services,” said Dr. Stanwick. “In the meantime, we will continue to partner with community service providers on the overdose prevention sites as well as on the range of outreach and education services designed to reduce the risk of overdose and save lives.”
While Island Health had hoped to complete at least two applications by the end of 2016, the recent need to significantly increase access to naloxone, provide the associated training and to get the emergency overdose prevention sites up and running diminished Island Health’s internal capacity to complete two applications by December 31, 2016.
Island Health anticipates the services and learnings from the overdose prevention sites at Our Place, 844 Johnson Street and a location in Rock Bay that will open in January will be incorporated into the permanent, multi-site supervised consumption service.
Public feedback sessions on these proposed locations took place in November, and Island Health will continue to work with the City of Victoria, Victoria Police and neighbours to ensure the services meet the needs of clients as well as the surrounding community.
As of November 30, 755 individuals have died in British Columbia in 2016 from illicit drug overdose. One hundred thirty-nine of those deaths occurred within Island Health’s geographic service area, including 60 deaths in Victoria alone. Island Health has had a higher per capita rate of death from illicit drug overdoses than any other region in the province in 2016. While other initiatives, including increased education, outreach services, naloxone distribution, more treatment beds and overdose prevention sites have been implemented, a supervised consumption service is a crucial component of a comprehensive response to the overdose crisis.
Island Health is working with other communities across the region to assess the need for supervised consumption services and temporary overdose prevention sites.
In July 2016, Premier Christy Clark appointed a Joint Task Force on Overdose Response, headed by Provincial Health Officer Dr. Perry Kendall and Director of Police Services Clayton Pecknold. The task force is providing expert leadership and advice to the Province on additional actions to prevent and respond to overdoses in British Columbia. As part of the response, law enforcement is working at all levels of government to interdict the supply of toxic drugs, and health officials are working to address the immediate and longer-term health needs. To that end, B.C. is expanding access to life-saving naloxone, supervised consumption services, and opioid addiction treatment medications and services.
Under the task force, the Province launched a broad campaign to alert people of how to prevent, identify and respond to overdoses. It is also investing in research, education and training through the new B.C. Centre on Substance Use to make sure addiction treatment is effective and evidence-based. Ongoing work to support and treat British Columbians with substance use issues is also a key part of the province’s response. Government is committed to meeting the goal of opening 500 new substance use treatment beds in 2017. In the past three years, more than 300 new beds have been opened as part of this commitment to provide better access to appropriate substance use supports.
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