‘Inhalation-focused’ overdose prevention site to open in downtown Victoria

'Inhalation-focused' overdose prevention site to open in downtown Victoria

A temporary overdose prevention site that is “inhalation-focused” will open in downtown Victoria in response to a toxic supply that continues to threaten the lives of drug users, Island Health says.

The new site will be operated as a satellite service of The Harbour, a supervised consumption site at 926 Pandora Avenue, and will be located across the street.

Island Health says the temporary location is the only suitable one it has found after searching for a permanent location for an inhalation-focused site for over a year.

The reason authorities have been searching for an inhalation-focused site is because according to BC Coroners Service data, smoking has been the most common form of drug consumption since 2017.

Minister of Mental Health and Addictions Sheila Malcolmson said it’s a temporary answer to a toxic drug supply that is “killing people at unprecedented levels.”

“We continue to add more witnessed inhalation sites because they save lives,” she said in a statement. “The new temporary location in Victoria is an important part of our response to connect more people with life-saving harm reduction services where they can also access health and treatment programs.”

The latest report from the BC Coroners Service last month said suspected illicit drug toxicity deaths in July were the second-highest ever recorded in a single month in the province.

The findings show deaths reached 184 in July, which tied with those in January 2021 and fell just behind June 2020 when 186 people died.

With data from July added, the report said the 1,204 suspected illicit drug toxicity deaths are the highest ever in the first seven months of a year — 28 per cent above the same period last year.

“The toxic drug supply is continuing to cause fatal and non-fatal overdoses at a tragic, unacceptable rate across B.C. and here in Victoria,” said Dr. Richard Stanwick, Chief Medical Health Officer for Island Health.

“An overdose prevention service focused on supporting individuals who inhale substances will help save lives and improve peoples’ connections with health care services and social supports. Island Health is grateful to the City of Victoria for its support in making this temporary site feasible.”

The new service will be publicly accessible, joining two other publicly accesible consumption sites at the Harbour and Rock Bay Landing.

It will open by mid to late November or sooner, according to Island Health, depending on completion of construction and hiring. It will be operational for around 10 months and will be equipped with trailers for staff and supplies, as well as a covered area with ventilation to minimize outdoor smoke. Shrubs and fencing will be installed to “decrease visibility and increase privacy.”

The inhalation site will be open seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.


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