Anna Kebaien, who serves as a liaison to the outreach team at Our Place Society, demonstrates how to use a fentanyl test strip at the facility’s onsite overdose prevention site. Kristyn Anthony/VICTORIA NEWS

Anna Kebaien, who serves as a liaison to the outreach team at Our Place Society, demonstrates how to use a fentanyl test strip at the facility’s onsite overdose prevention site. Kristyn Anthony/VICTORIA NEWS

Fentanyl test strips now available on the Island

Program piloted in Vancouver, resulted in reduction in overdoses

Echoing what harm reduction workers in Vancouver have been doing for over a year, Island Health has finally made fentanyl test strips available for people using substances.

Dr. Murray Fyfe, medical health officer with Island Health, said the strips are not 100 per cent accurate, but are a step in the right direction to potentially reduce the amount of drugs people are using and ensure those supplies are safer.

“What we’re talking about here is having strips that can be used by a person to test a small fraction of their drugs to ensure or determine whether or not they have fentanyl in them,” Fyfe explained.

“The test takes only about five minutes. The information they get from this will help them to determine whether they should reduce the amount of substances they’re taking, or maybe not use that particular batch at all.”

In addition to being distributed to overdose prevention sites in Victoria, 10,000 test strips will be dispersed to sites in Duncan, Nanaimo, Port Alberni, Courtenay and Campbell River. The strips are free to people checking drugs while at an overdose prevention or supervised consumption site, but will cost the province $1 each.

“This has been run as a pilot project in Vancouver over the past year and what it’s shown is that for people who are using the test strips that they do tend to reduce the amount of drugs they’re using if it does test positive for fentanyl,” Fyfe said.

Insite, a supervised injection site in Vancouver’s downtown eastside, has seen very positive results with the project, he said of the reduction in overdoses.

At Island Health overdose prevention sites between December 2016 and Dec. 2 this year, there were 66,200 visits, 579 overdoses and zero deaths.

Sophie Bannar-Martin, manager of STOP HIV and Bloodborne Diseases – a division of Island Health – said the health authority will evaluate the effectiveness of the test strips and hopes to see similar positive results as Vancouver.

“The fear is still quite high,” she said. “It’s exceptionally unfortunate that we’re two years into this crisis and the number of deaths has not reduced.”

The hope is that the strips will also engage people not currently accessing supervised consumption services, drawing them in so they can use in a monitored environment, she added. “I think understandably people are scared and they are dealing with a poisoned drug supply.”

Part of Island Health’s assessment will involve collecting information from the perspective of those with lived experience to help inform VIHA’s responses to the overdose crisis going forward.

Through the end of October, 1,208 people had died this year from drug overdoses in B.C., including 198 on Vancouver Island.

In general, 87 per cent of all drug overdoses have occurred indoors. With that in mind, Island Health is working on making the strips more widely available in the community.

kristyn.anthony@vicnews.com

fentanylIsland Health

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A family of ducks that lives near Saanich Municipal Hall recently welcomed 11 ducklings and took them for a swim in the koi pond outside the offices. (District of Saanich/Twitter)
Pair of ducks make Saanich Municipal Hall a nursery for 11 hatchlings

Family of ducks spent time in koi pond before heading down to Swan Lake

Habitat Acquisition Trust has received provincial funding to help restore Garry oak ecosystems on southern Vancouver Island. (Photo by Jeremy da Silva)
Central Saanich park among sites for local Garry oak restoration projects

Habitat Acquisition Trust received $140,000 in funding for 12 projects

Architect’s rendering of the 7 Erskine Lane development, showing the view from the east and south. (VDA Architecture Ltd. image)
View Royal green-lights residential development on Erskine Lane

First of two developments near Victoria General Hospital will provide 71 housing units

Andrew Swanson was arrested Wednesday after he was wanted for an alleged choking assault and for obstructing police. (Black Press Media File Photo)
Victoria police arrest Andrew Swanson on warrants for alleged choking assault, obstruction

A member of the public spotted Swanson and called 911 before police came and made the arrest

Protesters attempt to stop clear-cutting of old-growth trees in Fairy Creek near Port Renfrew. (Will O’Connell photo)
VIDEO: Workers, activists clash at site of Vancouver Island logging operation

Forest license holders asking for independent investigation into incident

Parks Canada and Tla-o-qui-aht Tribal Parks dig the washed up Princess M out from sand along the south shore of the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve. (Nora O’Malley photo)
Rescue attempt costs man his boat off Pacific Rim National Park Reserve

Coast Guard response questioned after volunteer responder’s speedboat capsizes in heavy swells

More than 6,000 camping reservations in British Columbia were cancelled as a result of a provincial order limiting travel between health regions. (Unsplash)
1 in 4 camping reservations cancelled in B.C. amid COVID-19 travel restrictions

More than 6,500 BC Parks campsite reservations for between April 19 and May 25 have been revoked

Anyone with information on any of these individuals is asked to call 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or visit the website victoriacrimestoppers.ca for more information.
Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of May 4

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

(Black Press Media file photo)
POLL: Do you plan to travel on the Victoria Day long weekend?

It’s the unofficial start to the summer season. A time of barbecues,… Continue reading

A worker rides a bike at a B.C. Hydro substation in Vancouver, on Friday, April 16, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
BC Hydro report raises safety concerns as pandemic prompts jump in yard work

Incidents involving weekend tree trimmers, gardeners and landscapers have risen 30% since the pandemic hit

Starting Tuesday, May 11, B.C. adults born in 1981 and earlier will be able to register for a vaccine dose. (Haley Ritchie/Black Press Media)
BC adults 40+ eligible to book COVID-19 vaccinations next week

Starting Tuesday, people born in 1981 and earlier will be able to schedule their inoculation against the virus

Road sign on Highway 1 west of Hope warns drivers of COVID-19 essential travel road checks on the highways into the B.C. Interior. (Jessica Peters/Chilliwack Progress)
B.C. residents want travel checks at Alberta border, MLA says

Police road checks in place at highways out of Vancouver area

Most Read