Kamloops politicians clash over supervised consumption site process

By Jill Sperling
January 19, 2017 - 4:13pm Updated: January 19, 2017 - 5:41pm

KAMLOOPS — There is no argument among Kamloops politicians that something must be done to prevent further illicit drug deaths in B.C., and in Canada. 

B.C. Health Minister Terry Lake, and Conservative MP Cathy McLeod are both calling on the federal government to declare a national public health emergency. 

Kamloops has been hit particularly hard by drug overdose deaths, many linked to the powerful opioid fentanyl. 

While the city currently has two overdose prevention sites, Interior Health has applied to Health Canada for a mobile supervised consumption site, where nurses would be able to supervise drug injections.

Both Lake and McLeod see value in this type of service, but they don't necessarily see eye to eye on the process by which it is implemented. 

With a record setting 40 overdose deaths recorded in Kamloops last year, the pressure is on to find a practical solution to the overdose crisis.

"The overdose prevention sites are one thing," Lake said, "but longer term the supervised consumption site will be a valuable tool, and IHA is putting in an application with the federal government for a mobile sit here in Kamloops, and of course we're engaging with the community about what that will look like."

Legislation passed by the previous conservative government requires consultations with local police departments and municipal governments before supervised consumption sites can be approved by Health Canada.

"The application that IH is submitting will be under the existing federal legislation which does place, I think, too many barriers in the way of a safe consumption site," Lake said. "However, the federal government, Minister Philpott, has indicated willingness to move applications through as quickly as possible. Once we get the new legislation in place federally I think that will make things go a lot faster and a lot smoother."

Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo MP Cathy McLeod is concerned about the idea of speeding up the process for establishing safe consumption sites. 

"I thought that what we had put in place was very reasonable," McLeod said. "I'm very concerned that the current government is actually moving back from having some of those checks and balances in place in their sort of rush to actually get sites up and going, they're not going to consult with the communities in the way that I think they should be."

While McLeod isn't counting a safe consumption site out as a way to prevent illicit drug deaths, she wants to make sure the proper homework is done to ensure its success.

"You need to know that there's a plan in place in terms of how we're going to deal with the needles, and how we're going to deal with disposal," she said. "Really, there is a role for safe injection sites, I'm not against safe injection sites, but I care about the detox beds, the rehab beds, because more importantly is let's support people when they're ready to get off drugs." 

Due to current legislation, Lake does not expect to see a supervised consumption site in Kamloops for another 4-6 months.

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