“This new overdose prevention site is a critically important service that will save the lives of Cowichan residents who use illegal drugs, which are now widely contaminated,” said Minister of Mental Health and Addictions Judy Darcy. “As we grapple with the overdose crisis, services like this that prevent immediate harms must go hand in hand with improvements to broader addiction treatment services, so that people struggling with addiction can ask once and get help fast.”
“With the number of overdose deaths in our Cowichan community increasing in recent years, we know that overdose prevention services are needed,” said Island Health Medical Health Officer Dr. Shannon Waters. “This is an emergency effort that will save lives.”
The Cowichan Valley-based overdose prevention service opened on September 12 and is receiving clients. The service is operated by the Cowichan Valley Branch of the Canadian Mental Health Association with funding from Island Health. The overdose prevention service will complement existing services already in the area of 715 Canada Avenue, including a medical clinic, health and harm reduction services available at the Margaret Moss Health unit.
The service will be available part of the day, seven (7) days a week. The overdose prevention service provides a place where people who use 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. This is an emergency strategy in locations where injections and overdose risk already exist. Since December 2016, there were 44,000 visits to overdose prevention sites in the Island Health region. In this time, there were 443 overdoses managed at the sites and no deaths.
Island Health has been working with community partners including Our Cowichan Communities Health Network, Cowichan Valley Regional District, Cowichan Tribes (via Ts’ewulhtun Health Centre), First Nations Health Authority, RCMP, Emergency Health Services (BC Ambulance), municipal and regional governments, and other community services agencies in establishing the overdose prevention site.
Between January 2016 and June 2017, there were 283 overdose deaths across the Island Health service region, including more than 25 in the Cowichan Valley.
The new overdose prevention site in Duncan supports the work of the new Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions established in 2017 and the Joint Task Force on Overdose Response established in 2016. As part of the wide range of actions taken, partners across the health system continue to expand access to naloxone and opioid addiction medications and treatments such as Suboxone, open more overdose prevention sites, work with Health Canada on approvals to open additional supervised consumption sites and improve the system of substance use services.
For more information Island Health’s overdose response, please visit our Overdose Prevention Hub online (http://www.viha.ca/mho/overdose.htm)