Addiction care plan a hot topic in Fernwood

Public meeting to address area residents’ concerns over increase in service in neighbourhood

The Fernwood Community Association is hosting an information session for residents concerned about the Vancouver Island Health Authority’s plans to reach out to the street population in the area.

In December, VIHA announced $500,000 in funding for a renewed service model to help the roughly 100 people in the street community with severe addiction and mental health challenges.

The plan also renews services at two existing VIHA mental health and addiction facilities: the sobering centre at 1123 Pembroke St. in Fernwood, and the Access Health Centre at 713 Johnson St.

A public information session is necessary to ease resident concerns about the level of new service, including the distribution of needles and other harm reduction materials, said association president Tony Sprackett.

“We recognize that there is a need for this service in the community,” he said.

“There’s been a huge gap, but we’re also sensitive to the concerns of the neighbours. But we are not taking a position at this point, other than being the facilitators of dialogue.”

Representatives from the health authority, the City of Victoria, Victoria Police Department, Victoria Cool Aid Society and AIDS Vancouver Island will be in attendance.

Sprackett said VIHA hasn’t yet given precise details of the new services, including whether or not it’s looking at expanding the hours of operation.

“They’ve been delivering some of these services for a number of years, but people need to know what that looks like.”

New services will also include art therapy, links to housing and primary care on evening and weekends.

The open house begins at 5 p.m. on Jan. 30 at the community association building, 1923 Fernwood Rd. A group discussion will begin at 7 p.m. with stakeholders and will be moderated by Sprackett.