Dr. Richard Stanwick, chief medical officer with Island Health, speaks about Health Canada’s approval of Victoria’s first supervised consumption site, which is expected to open in spring or summer of next year. Kendra Wong/Victoria News

UPDATED: Victoria’s first supervised consumption site to open in 2018

Site will be operated at 941 Pandora Ave. beginning next spring or summer

Dr. Richard Stanwick has been waiting a long time to see the opening of Victoria’s first supervised consumption site.

Now after more than 11 years, that dream is becoming a reality.

Health Canada approved Island Health’s application las week for a supervised consumption site at 941 Pandora Ave., to be named the Pandora Community Health and Wellness Centre.

The site will offer integrated health services including mental health counselling, a nursing clinic and links to addiction treatment programs.

“This is going to save lives … If you think of a hub with many spokes, this is but one component that we’re adding in terms of trying to address the opioid crisis,” said Stanwick, Island Health’s chief medical officer.

“It [the supervised consumption site] does work because there hasn’t been a death in a overdose prevention site or a supervised consumption site. When these events take place in these settings, at least we keep the people alive and you have to be alive to receive treatment.”

RELATED: Island Health targets two Victoria locations for Canada’s second and third safe consumption sites

Extensive renovations will be undertaken at the site, and are modeled after Insite in Vancouver and was the country’s first supervised injection site. They include creating additional and separate access and exit doors, an area to accommodate up to 10 consumption booths with mirrors so clients can be observed, and waiting/reception and post-use area. There will also be mental health counselling, nurse clinic and medication rooms.

Renovations are expected to cost $1.1 million, with an estimated $700,000 in operating costs annually. The site is expected to open in spring or summer next year, open 18 hours a day from roughly 9 a.m. to 3 a.m. seven days a week.

In December, Island Health opened a temporary overdose prevention site outside Our Place in an attempt to curb the opioid crisis. Since then, there have been more than 16,000 injections and more than 200 clients who use the facility on a regular basis.

“This is welcome news for Victoria,” said Marianne Alto, Victoria city councillor. “This service will save lives and build a more supportive community for the most vulnerable among us.”

In February, Island Health submitted a joint application with the PHS Community Services Society to operate a supervised consumption site at 844 Johnson Street, which is still under review.

The announcement of the Pandora site comes in the wake of the latest overdose numbers that were released by the province last week. There were 111 suspected overdose deaths in June across the province, according to the B.C. Coroner’s Service. Fifty people have died so far in Victoria this year.

kendra.wong@vicnews.com