Overdose prevention sites set to open this week in Victoria

Prevention sites to open at Our Place and Johnson Street

It might take a while before illicit drug users start going to one of the first overdose prevention sites in the city, but those working with the drug community are already breathing a sigh of relief.

In response to the increasing number of overdose-related deaths, the province is setting up overdose prevention sites at overdose hot spots in Vancouver and Victoria.

The first two overdose prevention sites opened last week in Vancouver and another two locations are set to open this week in Victoria — one at Our Place and another at the housing facility on Johnson Street, where the bulk of tent city residents now live. The Pandora location will be for the public while the Johnson Street facility will cater to building residents only.

Officials at Our Place have been pushing for a site like this for a long time due to the dramatic increase in overdoses this year.

According to Our Place spokesperson Grant McKenzie, staff have responded to about 40 overdoses throughout the course of the year and had three overdose deaths at its shelters. November alone saw almost 20 overdoses that typically happen in the washroom facilities.

“We really want our washrooms going back to being washrooms and we also want to cut down on the stress on our staff,” said McKenzie, who would like to see a permanent site open, but knows that will still take a while.

“Our staff have become first responders, which was never a large part of the job before, but now every time they go into the washroom there’s a sense of trepidation — what am I going to find?”

The temporary site at Our Place will include a heated tent in the courtyard and will be open from 6:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. It will also have a paramedic on hand at all times, along with a peer support worker.

In order to earn the trust of illicit drug users, Our Place has teamed up with SOLID — an organization composed of current and former illicit drug users who provide support, education and advocacy to the city’s drug community.

Jack Phillips, an outreach worker with SOLID, is a former heroin addict who stopped using about three-and-a-half years ago when he realized the drug included fentanyl — something he said changed his high and didn’t help ease his suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

Even with more fentanyl showing up on city streets, Phillips doesn’t believe it will deter addicts from using, but having a safe site to do so is something that’s been a long time coming.

“I think that it will break down a lot of the barriers that exist and the stigmas,” said Phillips.

“When you’re in an addictive state, it’s not because it’s a weekend party went wrong. It’s because you’ve been raped, beaten or had malicious things done to you many times in your life and this is your coping mechanism. From personal experience, you’d be shocked to find out what somebody would do to make sure they are okay.”

The sites are a temporary solution while the province’s health authorities wait for Health Canada to approve permanent supervised consumption sites that will include supervision services integrated with other health and social services such as mental health, substance use, referrals and peer support.

Additional sites are set to open later this month in Surrey, Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside and the Rock Bay area in Victoria. Staff at the sites will be equipped with naloxone and trained to respond to overdoses.

In April, the province’s health officer declared drug-related overdoses a public health emergency, sparking the distribution of naloxone kits to first responders. Between Jan. 1 and Oct. 31, there were 622 illicit drug overdose deaths in B.C. compared to 508 in the province the previous year. Fentanyl was detected in about 60 per cent of those deaths.

Overdose numbers for November are anticipated to be 50 per cent higher than any other month.

editor@vicnews.com

 

 

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

Just Posted

Felix Townsin, shown here with his sister, Lexi, who died on Oct. 19, 2019. Felix is a big part of a family initiative aimed at finding a cure for Blau Syndrome. (Photo contributed by the Townsin family)
Quest to cure Blau syndrome a family affair

John Stubbs student produces film for late little sister Lexi

An untitled Emily Carr painting of Finlayson Point was donated to the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria by brothers Ian and Andrew Burchett. The painting had been in their family for several decades. (Courtesy of the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria)
Newly public Emily Carr painting depicts well-known Victoria view

Painting among several donated to Art Gallery of Greater Victoria

An incident on Sooke Road is slowing traffic Wednesday evening. (Courtesy of Mona Hazeldine)
Sooke Road incident snarls evening traffic

Witnesses report two-vehicle collision

Janet Austin, lieutenant governor of B.C., was presented with the first poppy of the Royal Canadian Legion’s 2020 Poppy Campaign on Wednesday. (Kendra Crighton/News Staff)
PHOTOS: B.C. Lieutenant Governor receives first poppy to kick off 2020 campaign

Janet Austin ‘honour and a privileged’ to receive the poppy

Soccer player Ethan Finnigan juggles the ball at Oak Bay High. The Grade 12 student was injured much of last year and was relying on his senior year to score a scholarship and play at university. (Travis Paterson/News Staff)
High school athletes remain on sidelines across B.C.

Recruiting for university on hiatus, future unknown

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates the COVID-19 situation, B.C. legislature, Oct. 26, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 case count jumps by 287, another senior home outbreak

Two more deaths recorded, community outbreak in Okanagan

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 Oct. 27

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

MMFN First Nation has said that it will restrict access to portion of Highway 28 that passes through the Nation’s land until a road use agreement is reached. (Black Press file photo)
Vancouver Island First Nation blocks highway access to logging trucks in Gold River

Mowachaht/Muchalaht First Nation restricting access for Western Forest Products pending road deal

100 Mile Conservation officer Joel Kline gingerly holds an injured but very much alive bald eagle after extracting him from a motorist’s minivan. (Photo submitted)
Rescued bald eagle that came to life in B.C. man’s car had lead poisoning

Bird is on medication and recovering in rehab centre

The B.C. Centre for Disease control is telling people to keep an eye out for the poisonous death cap mushroom, which thrives in fall weather conditions. (Paul Kroeger/BCCDC)
Highly poisonous death cap mushroom discovered in Comox

This marks first discovery on Vancouver Island outside Greater Victoria area

Cowichan Search and Rescue set up near the Silver Bridge in Duncan on Wednesday morning, Oct. 28, 2020 to rescue a dog from the Cowichan River. (Citizen file)
Cowichan Search and Rescue save dog from icy Cowichan River

Search and Rescue’s swiftwater team was called in

Premier-elect John Horgan and cabinet ministers are sworn in for the first time at Government House in Victoria, July 18, 2017. (Arnold Lim/Black Press)
Pandemic payments have to wait for B.C. vote count, swearing-in

Small businesses advised to apply even if they don’t qualify

A raccoon paid a visit to a Toronto Tim Hortons on Oct. 22, 2020. (shecallsmedrew/Twitter)
Who are you calling a trash panda? Raccoon takes a shift at Toronto Tim Hortons

Tim Hortons said animal control was called as soon they saw the surprise visitor

Most Read