Vancouver Island’s largest supervised consumption site is celebrating its first month of operation by announcing its new name: The Harbour Supervised Consumption Service.
The name was chosen by clients who use overdose prevention and supervised consumption sites in Victoria and reflects the site’s purpose as a safe space, one in which people can use illicit drugs under the supervision of trained health professionals and peer support workers.
The first month has been busy at The Harbour, located at 941 Pandora Ave. Since it opened there have been 3,378 visits, an average of 158 per day. This is up from the 93 visitors per day the now-closed temporary overdose prevention unit next door at Our Place was seeing before The Harbour opened. The new unit has reversed 51 overdoses and had zero fatalities.
Mary Morrison, Island Health’s manager for mental health and substance use, said it’s going as good as, if not better than, anticipated.
“It’s been pretty positive, people appreciate the space,” she said. “There’s a real feeling that we value them and their lives and wellness, and they see that by how we’ve made a very significant investment in services.”
The Harbour is open from 6:30 a.m. until 8 p.m. every day and aside from witnessed consumption, the space offers resources such as peer supports, public health nursing, mental health and substance use supports, and linkages and referrals to treatment and housing with partnerships with SOLID and the Lookout Housing Society.
While overall feedback has been positive, clients have also identified some things that need improvement, but Morrison said most are outside their scope of power to change. These include a lack of a safe site for drug inhalation, which is available at Rock Bay Landing, and the ability to support peer-assisted injection, which at this point is not approved by Health Canada.
“Certain people of the population need someone else to inject [them], whether it’s because they have a disability or if they’ve never done it before,” Morrison said. “But we have to apply for an exemption from Health Canada for that.”
Island Health has already applied for an exemption for oral and intra-nasal drug use, and has peer-assisted injection on its list.
“We all need a harbour in our lives,” said Morrison, “a place where we are safe and protected and where we maybe can take a moment to contemplate whether now is the time to sail in a new direction. And when people are [ready], The Harbour is ready to help.”