Overdose prevention needed now, say frontline workers

"When they’re alone behind a locked door, that’s when they’re in trouble. This has been a long time coming...”

Overdose prevention measures couldn’t have come soon enough to those who are getting a firsthand view of the current drug crisis.

“Since it reared its head, we have had clients come in and ask when we will have a service,” said Clare MacDonald, executive director of Living Positive, the organization that’s taken on the task of opening two overdose prevention sites in Kelowna by Friday.

“Now our clients are just using behind locked doors jumping into a bathroom somewhere so they can use and get out. And when they’re alone behind a locked door, that’s when they’re in trouble. This has been a long time coming.”

To date, there have been nearly 40 overdose deaths in Kelowna and more than 600 provincewide.

With the new overdose prevention sites at the Living Positive Resource Centre and the recently vacated Kelowna Health Centre site, those drug users will find a greatly desired measure of safety.

“The people who we work with are using substances for many reasons and they’re dependent on them,” said MacDonald.

“They have just as much want to live as others. But we have clients who are coming in and saying they had a friend pass away on the weekend and that’s just as tragic to us as it is to them.”

For those who aren’t deeply involved in health services, the overdose prevention site may not sound a lot different than the Supervised Injection Sites that have been making headlines in Kelowna.

Last month Interior Health announced it was looking at opening one at 477 Leon Ave., but it needed to get approvals from Health Canada first.

These emergency response sites are not seeking federal permission.

They are supported by a ministerial order issued on Dec. 9 under the Emergency Health Services Act and Health Authorities Act.

The order directs that health authorities establish overdose prevention sites based on the advice of the Provincial Health Officer in locations of very high risk during the public health emergency declared under B.C.’s Public Health Act in April, 2016.

That, however, is not the only difference.

MacDonald explained supervised injection sites provide users with a medical professional who will watch as drugs are injected.

“In overdose prevention sites, clients are simply given a safe place to go inside and they can go about their business,” said MacDonald.

“Staff will not be watching (consumption) but if an overdose does occur, they will be close enough to prevent brain damage or death by administering naloxone and breathing support.”

The sites will also offer a conduit to further treatment, if so desired by the drug user.

“We are already a conduit to services, where our clients can access harm reduction supplies for injecting and inhaling substances,” MacDonald said.

“They can come in and get supplies and ask ‘can you help me get to detox.’”

Although the model is aimed at harm reduction, it’s not always welcomed.

The application for a Supervised Injection Site on Leon Avenue, for example, has already drawn criticism from the business community, with both the Chamber of Commerce and the Downtown Kelowna Association voicing concerns about the location.

They argue it’s at odds with creating a vibrant and healthy downtown.

The Rutland business community, which will be close to the Living Positive site, has yet to form a staunch opinion on the matter. Mike Koutsantonis, president of URBA, said that in Rutland there’s been a noticeable rise in drug use.

“It’s standard throughout the whole city that there’s been a rise,” he said.

“It’s proven by the amount of complaints and the number of needles found in different alleyways. We know there’s a rise, but what is the exact need in Rutland? That remains to be seen.” As a business organization, he said they’ll examine it further.

“We will look into it and see what it’s all about. It may be a good thing, or it may not,” he said.

Health Minister Terry Lake is convinced it’s the right choice.

“In the wake of a spike in overdose-related 911 calls, and in light of the current cold snap across the province, health authorities are moving quickly to set up overdose prevention sites in communities where a significant number of people have been suffering overdoses,” said Lake.

“We needed to act quickly with this emergency measure to help save people’s lives, which is our foremost concern as we continue our work to combat the overdose crisis.”

Several overdose prevention sites were established in B.C. last week, including three in Vancouver and one in Prince George, with more planned for Victoria and Surrey this week.

 

Just Posted

Your Saturday story catch-up

Every Saturday, read our popular stories from the week

Friends of Gable Beach concerned with District of Lake Country’s proposal

Carr’s Landing residents oppose the district’s latest solution to Gable Beach

Greyhound stop in Oyama gets cut

Expanded regional transit replacement option for Lake Country

Heavy snowfall for Coquihalla

Kelowna - Snowfall is expected to continue on the highway until Sunday

Lake Country budget approved

Lake Country’s 2018 Operating and Capital Budget was approved Tuesday night

VIDEO: What you need to know today at the B.C. Games

B.C. Winter Games athletes work for gold in the last full day of competition

How to keep local news visible in your Facebook feed

Facebook has changed the news feed to emphasize personal connections. You might see less news.

B.C. Games: Athletes talk Team Canada at PyeongChang 2018

From Andi Naudie to Evan McEachran there’s an Olympian for every athlete to look up to

Snowboarders sliding into fresh territory at B.C. Games

Athletes hit the slopes for first appearance as an event at the B.C. Winter Games in Kamloops

Looking back at the 1979 B.C. Games: Good memories, even better jackets

39 years later, Kamloops is hosting the Winter Games again, with some volunteers returning

OLYMPICS 101: Oldest and youngest Canadians to reach the podium

This year, Canada sent its most athletes in Winter Games history, here’s a look at record breakers

BCHL Today: Cowichan Caps play spoiler and Nanaimo wins 10th straight game

BCHL Today is a (near) daily look at what’s going on around the league and the junior A world.

Federal budget to unveil incentive for 5-week second parent leave: official

Goal behind the measure is to give parents more incentive to share child-rearing responsibilities

Notley says Alberta watching B.C. court bid closely, will get no free ride on it

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley ended the three-week ban on B.C. wine, calming the trade war

Most Read