Island Health issues request for proposals for new overdose prevention site

Island Health issues request for proposals for new overdose prevention site
An overdose prevention site on Johnson Street in downtown Victoria is shown.

Island Health has issued a request for proposals for a new overdose prevention site in downtown Victoria.

There are currently five such sites in Victoria funded by Island Health along with two supervised consumption sites already in operation.

Island Health said it has “experienced challenging congregation issues” in and around those sites, “with the result that immediate neighbours are often adversely affected,” according to its request for proposals on the BC Bid website.

It wants to install a new one in the downtown core because the twin crises of overdoses and the COVID-19 pandemic have increased the need for accessible harm reduction services.

“A new service will help address physical distancing requirements and reduce the risk of overdoses in the community.”

According to the RFP, the site will be aimed at helping the most marginalized people in Victoria who may be homeless or at risk of homelessness, and those at highest risk of overdose death.

Island Health has also stipulated that the site:

  • Is preferably located within walking distance of support services
  • Is not on a high-traffic street
  • Is not beside a park that can be used for camping
  • Is not beside or close to schools or daycares
  • Is conveniently close to public transit

The operators of the site will also be expected to have strategies to deal with the traffic issue and the potential for users to sleep near the service.

Two people will be expected to staff the site at all times, not including any proposed security and supervisory staff.

On Tuesday, the BC Coroners Service reported 165 suspected illicit drug overdose deaths for January 2021, the largest number of lives lost in a single January. It follows a record-setting year for drug overdose deaths in B.C.

Overdose prevention sites provide harm reduction services for drug users such as clean needles and other supplies, safe disposal of used supplies, education on safe drug use, fentanyl testing and crucially, access to nalaxone, which can reverse an overdose.

Jeff LawrenceJeff Lawrence

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