The Interior is looking to follow Vancouver’s footsteps in setting up a supervised injection site as the province grapples with an epidemic drug crisis.
“We are seeing a lot of needles being left around our community, so now here’s a place they can be disposed of safely.”
Both Kelowna and Kamloops are in the running for a safe injection site fully funded by Interior Health, but Kelowna Mayor Colin Basra says a lack of available funds may hold one city back.
“I and the Mayor of Kamloops have no intention of getting into a fight over who gets the facility. It will be Interior Health’s decision.”
Both cities have high number of overdose deaths
Basra says that while he would prefer the site be set up in Kelowna, he recognizes that both cities have a large number of residents who are are desperately in need.
“We are experiencing a high number of overdose deaths in both those communities… It puts help close to the user, if a user decides in that moment that they want help or to turn their life around, help is there.”
Unlike Vancouver’s existing sites, the planned Interior site won’t be a stand-alone.
“I believe it’s Interior’s Health intention to put this in a facility that already provides services.”
Consulting with Vancouver sites
“Certainly data collected from what taking place in Vancouver will certainly be used in helping decide what the best course of action is.”
With illicit drugs like Fentanyl in the mix, Basra says there is an immediate need for the service.
Earlier this year, B.C.’s Provincial Health Officer declared a public health emergency, because of opioid overdose deaths.
Supervised injection sites slowly spreading: Toronto to open three
After overwhelming approval from city council in July, Toronto will be opening three sites similar to Vancouver’s InSite.
Acting director of programs at PHS Community Services Society Coco Culbertson says Vancouver has set an example for the rest of the country in providing safe injection for those in need.
“Vancouver has not only been trail blazing, but teaching and sharing information and practice and method and approach to care for injection drug users.”
Vancouver pushing to open more sites amidst drug crisis
The City of Vancouver is struggling to deal with an unprecedented number of drug overdose deaths, and as a result health officials are pushing to open more supervised injection sites.
Dr. Patricia Daly with Vancouver Coastal Health told Vancouver City Council in June that five applications will be made to the federal government by the end of this summer.
“We are looking at a couple of our community health centres. We are looking at one location at an acute care hospital. And we are looking at two specific sites in the Downtown Eastside . One where we currently provide inpatient care to injection drug users who need intravenous antibiotic treatment, and also we are considering adding these services to recently announced mental health and addictions drop in site.”
She says the average overdose rate at InSite was 5 per week, but that number has climbed to 30-40 overdoses a week.
Daly says the new sites could be open as early as next year.
A brief history of Vancouver’s revolutionary InSite
- The site first opened in 2003, according to PHS Community Services Society. Michel Chartrand was the first drug user to inject at the site, and said at the time that site came too late for him, but he wanted it to be there for other people to prevent the epidemic of overdose deaths and the spread of life threatening diseases. Nearly 300 users came to use the site on that first day.
- InSite was North America’s first legally sanctioned supervised injection facility.
- In 2006 the Federal Minister of Health, under new federal government, began taking action to shut down InSite. A series of short term extensions were granted allowing the site to stay open, while PHS worked around the clock to convince government to reconsider.
- A constitutional claim was filed, heard by B.C. Supreme Court, and later went through a process of appeal. Years of courtroom deliberation would eventually lead to a positive decision for PHS.
- In September, 2011, all nine judges of Canada’s highest court ruled unanimously that attempts by the federal health minister to close InSite went against the country’s charter of rights by threatening the safety and lives of the people who need to use it.