As Nanaimo sees a record number of illicit drug-related deaths, a new overdose prevention site coming to the city looks to connect people to life-saving supports, according to the British Columbia government.
Located at 250 Albert St., the centre opens Monday, Dec. 5, offering services such as treatment options, harm-reduction measures, and supports and referrals for people to reduce the risk of toxic drug poisonings, the province says.
The centre will open as an interim service amid renovations and is expected to be fully operational by late 2023, when it will have “a range of other services, including medication-assisted treatment, addictions medicine and basic health care,” states a news release.
The province and Island Health are funding the facility, which the Canadian Mental Health Association’s mid-Island branch will operate following the health authority’s request for proposals earlier in 2022.
“There is a crucial need for more services for people living with substance use,” said Jason Harrison, executive director of the CMHA’s mid-Island branch, in the release.
“This new service will provide a client-centred, dignified and non-judgmental care, and offers opportunities for people to connect with the services they need, and supports them on their wellness journeys.”
Meanwhile, B.C.’s Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, Sheila Malcolmson, says the centre comes at “this dangerous time of drug toxicity.”
On Wednesday, the BC Coroners Service said the overdose death toll for October reached at least 179 people, with illicit drugs causing the deaths of 1,827 people in the first 10 months of this year.
The coroner’s statistics show 453 of those deaths occurred in Vancouver, while Nanaimo saw 59 people die from illicit drugs so far this year — more than any previous year.
At least 10,688 B.C. residents have died since the government first declared a public health emergency in April 2016, the service says, noting illicit drug toxicity as “the leading cause of unnatural death in the province.”
Leah Hollins, board chair of Island Health, says the authority is pleased to partner with the Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions and CMHA “to strengthen crucial harm reduction and substance use service improvements in Nanaimo.”
-With files from The Canadian Press