Health Canada approves consumption site in Victoria

Health Canada approves consumption site in Victoria

Health Canada has approved a new supervised consumption site in Victoria.

On Aug. 3, the Vancouver Island Health Authority (Island Health) was given the approval by the federal government to open a supervised consumption site at 941 Pandora Avenue. The site will be named the Pandora Community Health and Wellness Centre and will offer integrated health services, including mental health counselling, a nursing clinic and linkages to addiction treatment programs.

Dr. Richard Stanwick, Island Health Chief Medical Health Officer, said introducing the supervised consumption will help save lives and reduce harm as health care providers on Vancouver Island deal with the opioid crisis.

“This is a little long in coming in terms of Victoria actually contemplated a supervised consumption site in 2006,” Stanwick said. At that time, there were 16 overdose deaths per year, Stanwick said. Now he said that is about the average number of deaths they see per month.

“Clearly the need for this type of facility is more than necessary,” Stanwick said.

According to Health Canada, the site is the first in Victoria. Island Health sent in an application to the federal government in January.

“International and Canadian evidence has shown that, when properly established and maintained, supervised consumption sites save lives without increasing drug use or crime in the surrounding area,” Health Canada said in a statement.

“Supervised consumption sites reduce transmission of communicable diseases, decrease infections, reduce emergency room use and hospital admissions related to injection drug use, and decrease overdose deaths.

The new site will be renovated before it opens in the spring/summer of 2018. The renovations, predicted to cost approximately $1.1 million, include additional and separate access and exit doors, an area for 10 consumption booths, a waiting and reception area, a post-use area, a mental health counselling room, a nurse clinic room and a medication room.

The programming at the supervised consumption site will complement health and social services offered at Our Place. The temporary overdose prevention site that opened at Our Place in December 2016 will close once the Pandora Community Health and Wellness Centre starts its programming. Three weeks before the site opens, Health Canada will do an inspection.

Island Health has also made a joint application with the PHS Community Services Society to operate supervised consumption services at 844 Johnson Street. That application is under review.

There are eight overdose prevention sites on Vancouver Island from Victoria to Campbell River. Island Health said between January and May of this year, there have been more than 26,600 visits and 310 overdoses. According to Island Health, there have been no deaths at any overdose prevention site in the province.

Alexa HuffmanAlexa Huffman

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