Island Health is asking Health Canada for approval to open Vancouver Island’s first supervised consumption site located inside an existing housing facility for vulnerable, high risk individuals.
The site would be housed in the Johnson Street Community facility in Victoria and only open to residents and registered guests.
The health authority along with PHS Community Services Society submitted the application to Health Canada, the second one filed seeking approval for a supervised consumption site in the city,
“By building a supervised consumption service into the range of social and clinical services already offered at the Johnson Street Community residential facility, residents and their registered guests have safer drug use services on-site,” said Dr. Richard Stanwick, Chief Medical Health Officer with Island Health.
The Johnson Street Community, located at 844 Johnson Street, is home to roughly 145 high-risk, marginalized residents.
The building is owned by BC Housing with PHS operating it and providing range of social, occupational and primary care services.
Since December 2016, the site has operated an Overdose Prevention Service.
Approximately 170 unique residents and guests have used this service for a total of 3,600 visits; PHS staff have responded to two overdoses and there have been no deaths.
“The Overdose Prevention Unit – and supervised consumption services generally – saves lives,” says Andy Bond, Senior Director of Housing at PHS.
PHS is already seeing success supporting clients living with opioid addiction at the Johnson Street Community.
PHS also offers care from a specialist addictions-trained family medicine physician, resulting in a number of Johnson Street Community residents accessing various forms of treatment, including methadone and Suboxone therapy.
“The service model proposed in this application is part of the ongoing evolution of supervised consumption service models in Canada that are tailored to local community realities,” said Jennifer Breakspear, Executive Director at PHS.
The supervised consumption service at 844 Johnson Street will be operated by PHS, which will provide the program under contract with – and funding from – Island Health.
Island Health will maintain oversight and accountability for the service.
In January, the health authority submitted an application to operate a 10-booth supervised consumption service at 941 Pandora Street.
The application is currently being reviewed by Health Canada.
Renovations to the site are expected to begin shortly and, pending Health Canada approval, the site would open in 2018.
A recent decision by local government to deny a required by-law change, means Island Health’s original aim to submit an application for a service in Nanaimo will now be delayed.
As of the end of April, 488 people had died in British Columbia in 2017 from illicit drug overdose.
Eighty-four of those deaths occurred within Island Health’s geographic service area, including 37 deaths in Victoria alone.