WATCH: 600 crosses were erected in Harris Green Wednesday, as advocates demand the province move forward with safe injection sites. April Lawrence reports.
They looked like simple wooden crosses but each one represented a person who will die in B.C. this year from an overdose.
“It has been estimated by the province of B.C. that between 600 to 800 people will die from preventable overdose deaths in 2016,” said Alex Holtom with the group ‘Yes2SCS‘, which organized the cross campaign.
The group is demanding safe injection sites for communities outside of Vancouver, where one is already in operation, saying there is no question they save lives.
“Over 90 facilities worldwide and there hasn’t been a single fatality, pretty astonishing numbers,” said Holtom.
According to the B.C. Coroners Service there has been an average of 64 overdose deaths per month so far this year in B.C.
That’s compared to 40 per month last year, and 30.5 per month in 2014.
Part of the reason for the crisis is the dangerous opioid fentanyl — it has been detected in 49 per cent of overdose deaths this year, compared to 32 per cent in 2015.
Heather Hobbs, with AIDS Vancouver Island, said the increasing prevalence of Naloxone kits, which can save the lives of people who have overdosed, is a start but it’s not enough — because she said fatal or not, all overdoses have an impact.
“When you consider the number of ambulance responses and visits to emergency rooms, et cetera, when you combine all those things in addition to deaths it’s a really staggering situation,” said Hobbs.
In fact the province has declared it a public health emergency.
Island Health said it is working with the City of Victoria, Victoria Police, and stakeholders to develop a plan for safe consumption.
“It is high priority work, the work is active and ongoing, we’re meeting regularly and developing criteria for a location and a service model as we speak,” said Suzanne Germain with Island Health Mental Health and Addiction Services.
Once that’s determined, they will have to apply to the federal government for an exemption, and then there’s the cost.
“At this point Island Health is not aware of any net new funding available for this so we’re looking at how services can be realigned and reformatted to support this service,” said Germain.
The work is moving forward but there is a long way to go and no date for a safe consumption site opening in Victoria has been set.