The next step toward saving lives from potential drug overdoses will soon be available in Victoria.
On Monday (June 18), the doors will officially open at the Pandora Supervised Consumption Centre, in the former St. John Ambulance centre at 941 Pandora Ave. The centre, the largest of its kind on the Island, will be open from 6:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. almost every day of the year. It will offer clean syringes and equipment, fentanyl test strips and 10 well-lit desks for drug users, an area to be supervised by PCP IV paramedics Lillian Gauthier and Scott Sywake.
“We see lots [of overdoses] on the street and we’re kind of excited to be here in this environment and help them,” Gauthier said.
“This is gonna give people the opportunity to come in here and be safe,” said Sywake. There will be many resources available to people, he added, “whether it’s counselling, addiction counselling, seeing the street nurse. Or if they should overdose, there will be a paramedic here and staff members are able to help out right away and provide assistance.”
For SOLID outreach worker David Keeler, the site offers much more than the overdose prevention site hosted temporarily in a converted shipping container next door at Our Place.
“The old place was so cramped; here we have so much room. Even if we have full tables we have room to lay people down and work on them without stepping over people,” he said. “The amenities are great, we have everything we need plus what we had before, so it’s just growing and it’s a great thing. We haven’t lost anyone in these sites.”
Judy Darcy, B.C. Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, was on hand to unveil the facility on Thursday. She reiterated that the opening of safe consumption sites is a major part of the effort to reduce drug overdose deaths.
“They save lives because they bring together harm reduction services, clinical services and connect people to the social supports which they absolutely critical need to get onto the pathway to hope,” she said.
Darcy reported that across B.C. there have been over 800,000 visits to supervised consumption and overdose prevention sites. “Over 5,300 overdoses have been reversed and not one single life has been lost.”
|B.C. Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, Judy Darcy (centre) said supervised consuption centres save lives at the opening of the Pandora Supervised Consumption Centre. Nicole Crescenzi/ VICTORIA NEWS|
On Vancouver Island alone there have been 121,000 visits across nine sites, with 683 overdoses reversed.
Dr. Richard Stanwick, chief medical officer with Island Health, said one of the most important things to remember is that everyone is affected by the opioid crisis, and the stigma against addiction needs to change.
“This is a chronically relapsing disease of the brain, and it should not be treated any differently than type 1 diabetes or any other diseases,” he said.