KAMLOOPS —Interior Health says it is exploring the possibility of launching a mobile supervised drug consumption site in Kamloops.
The announcement comes on the heels of a consultation process on best options for the community.
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In addition, IH is proposing a similar mobile unit for Kelowna, as well as a fixed location in the Okanagan city's downtown.
Health Minister Terry Lake says Bob Hughes of ASK Wellness deserves credit for advocating for this idea.
"Bob pointed me in the direction of mobile units and when I talked to Interior Health about this, they were aware of these mobile units in Europe. They're an innovative way to provide the service, and I think for a community like Kamloops, where we really have populations on both sides of the river, this makes a lot of sense."
An IH news release says the locations are based on feedback from stakeholders, as well as operational considerations and proximity to harm reduction and treatment services.
"A mobile site is not going to be in any one neighbourhood or any one business area," said Lake. "I think that takes a little bit of the pressure off. And I think it's more patient-friendly, to be honest, because if it was on the North Shore, for instance, people that are mostly downtown wouldn't be able to access it easily, and vice versa."
The health authority says it will now engage in further consultation about the proposed locations and models of service, including a website that has been set up to gather feedback from the public.
IH says it will wait until this round of consultation ends on December 15 to decide whether to apply for an exemption from Health Canada to operate the sites.
Lake says this process may be going more quickly if the federal government would drop the Respect for Communities Act, which calls for intense consultation before a harm reduction site can be opened.
"There's no question that Bill C-2 is still a large barrier for safe consumption services. Without that, I think we could speed up this process and start serving people and saving lives. The federal minister I know is working on this, but we still are urging the federal government to make a commitment to this today."
31 people have died due to illicit opioid overdoses in Kamloops so far this year.
That compares to only seven all of last year.
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