Island Health implementing overdose prevention site in Nanaimo

January 16, 2017

NANAIMO – As part of the Province’s response to the overdose emergency, the City of Nanaimo and Island Health will be implementing an overdose prevention site at 437 Wesley Street. The site is expected to be up and running by the end of January or sooner, once the required staff has been recruited and trained.

“Health authorities continue to open overdose prevention sites in areas where high numbers of people are affected,” said Health Minister Terry Lake. “These temporary emergency sites are one of a range of measures that the Province and partners are taking to save lives and address the overdose crisis over the short and long term.”

The Overdose Prevention Service is being added to existing services already available at 437 Wesley Street. This location is a low barrier residential facility that provides housing and support services for high risk, vulnerable populations. The building is owned by BC Housing and sits on land owned by the City of Nanaimo. The building is operated by the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA). 

 “Given the number overdose deaths in our Nanaimo community in the past few years, we’ve identified the need for services for overdose prevention,” said Island Health Medical Health Officer Dr. Paul Hasselback. “I thank the City of Nanaimo for its support of citizens who are struggling with substance use problems and for working with Island Health.”

This temporary overdose prevention site is expected to be in operation until a supervised consumption site for Nanaimo is approved by Health Canada.

"The City wants to acknowledge and thank Island Health for their rapid response to this Provincial crisis,” said Bill McKay, Mayor of Nanaimo. “Both the City and Island Health are unanimous in the selection of 437 Wesley Street as the location for this site and we are both committed to ongoing discussions and joint planning to ensure the citizens of Nanaimo have access to long term treatment and services."

The service will be available seven (7) days a week with hours of operation still to be determined. The overdose prevention service provides a place where people who use illicit opioid drugs can be safely monitored and treated immediately if they overdose. Staff at the site will be equipped with naloxone and be appropriately trained for overdose response.

Overdose prevention services include emergency health resources and outreach personnel to prevent and reverse overdoses. These services will be to monitor and observe people at risk for overdose and call emergency health services if needed.

Between January and November of 2016, there were 139 overdose deaths across the Island Health service region, including 25 in Nanaimo. 

The Nanaimo overdose prevention site and 18 sites in other communities around the province are the provincial government’s latest steps in response to the opioid overdose crisis.

In July 2016, Premier Christy Clark appointed a Joint Task Force on Overdose Response to provide expert leadership and advice to the Province on additional actions to prevent and respond to overdoses in B.C. 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, as well as improving the effectiveness of addiction treatment and access to appropriate substance use supports.

For more information Island Health’s overdose response, please visit our Overdose Prevention Hub online (http://www.viha.ca/mho/overdose.htm).

Media Inquiries:
Valerie Wilson
Director, Communications and Community Engagement