Island Health supports a supervised consumption site

Island Health is throwing its support behind the idea of establishing a supervised consumption site in Greater Victoria.

Island Health is throwing its support behind the idea of establishing a supervised consumption site in Greater Victoria.

In a letter to Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps, Catherine MacKay, Island Health executive vice president and chief operating officer, said it has begun discussions with relevant stakeholders to bring a site to fruition.

“Island Health is in the beginning stages of embarking on planning with various stakeholders around the potential establishment of supervised consumption services on the South Island, including in the City of Victoria,” MacKay said in the letter.

“We believe extensive and ongoing collaborative work will be required over the coming months to develop a model for proposed service delivery.”

Victoria Coun. Marianne Alto has been at the forefront, bringing together representatives from the Victoria Police Department, Yes2 Supervised Consumption Site (Yes2SCS), and Island Health to discuss the issue. Representatives have been meeting formally every two weeks for the past fews months.

“(The city’s) position at this point is a facilitator. We’re hosting meetings and providing an ability for the primary players — the health authority, the police department and the community — to come together and have the sometimes challenging but very productive conversations that are necessary to imagine a service like this,” said Alto during a meeting last Thursday.

Based on conversations so far, Alto noted the site would focus on providing medical supervision for drugs that could result in an overdose and potential death. It would include other health services as well.

However, one of the biggest challenges is a bill introduced by the former Conservative government, which comes with strict requirements before the federal government will approve the site.

Coun. Geoff Young said the city should be cautious when moving forward.

“I see this as an undesirable half-way house. It’s one that I don’t think can continue or will be seen as desirable in the long-run. I can see enormous issues with finding a location for it,” he said.

At the end of June, officials will complete an evaluation of the process and give an update of how much left there is to do.