Rutland overdose prevention site needed, say those close to the crisis

Not being able to provide a Rutland overdose prevention site has been hard on frontline workers who know the needs of their clientele.

This is what users of the Overdose Prevention site in downtown Kelowna are supplied with.

Not being able to provide a Rutland overdose prevention site has been hard on frontline workers who know the needs of their clientele.

“We come to work Monday morning and we fear someone who see daily or weekly will not be back again because they have overdosed or died,” said said Clare MacDonald, executive director of the Living Positive Resource Centre.

“They’re people we know. They are good people and a service that could potentially save their lives is being blocked because of fear, stigma and judgement.”

Up until Friday, it seemed as though Living Positive was set to open two Overdose Prevention Sites in Kelowna. One for Rutland, in a strip mall on Asher Road. The other at the former Ellis Street Health Centre. Neighbourhood complaints thwarted efforts to open the Rutland location and Interior Health as well as the Living Positive Resource Centre are now looking for a secondary location.

“We had a lot of people today at our front desk today asking when it will be available,” she said.

“A lot of people are distraught because they are in need of the service.”

The downtown site had a soft opening on Friday, but is expected to really get underway today, and will regularly operate from Tuesday to Saturday.

The first day went well, said MacDonald, noting few users had entered the site while she was there.

This week will offer a clearer picture of how well it will be received.

What MacDonald already knows is that it’s the right thing for the community and if more people would adjust  their view of the user, they’d likely see the benefit.

“A lot of people say online, ‘this is a choice they’re making,'” said MacDonald.

“We’re talking about addiction — it’s a disease, not a choice.   The physical ramifications for not using the substance is extreme withdrawal, and withdrawal can result in death.”

What’s worse, she said, is that the only thing that can reduce the discomfort of withdrawal now could kill.

“Now it’s fatal, and you need to be watched and if you don’t have that option and you’re in a catch 22,” she said.

If people saw who these users were, they may change their view.

“A  lot of the addictions for our clients started with a medical prescription for opiates to reduce pain after surgery or an accident,” said MacDonald.

“For some people that addiction starts right away.  Even someone who starts something recreationally doesn’t think they’re going to be an addict. “

Everyone, she said, uses substances to alter their mood.

“Some substances come with higher judgement,” she said.