Ask Wellness treating supervised injection sites as an experiment

By Vanessa Ybarra
March 22, 2017 - 6:00pm Updated: March 22, 2017 - 9:17pm

KAMLOOPS —  With this year's fentanyl-related deaths about to reach double-digits, it's clear the province-wide epidemic is far from over.

Last week, Kamloops city council voted in favour of opening two mobile injection sites, one on the North Shore and one on the South Shore. 

Health Canada is expected to receive the application by the end of the month.

According to Ask Wellness, the mobile sites are among the first in Canada, making the vehicle operation as cutting edge as it is controversial. 

WATCH: Full report by Vanessa Ybarra

The parking lot behind the North Shore Ask Wellness is where a mobile injection site is hoped to be up-and-running sometime in April.

With B.C's fentanyl overdose crisis claiming seven lives in Kamloops in the first two months this year and 40 deaths recorded last year, the service is an experiment in fighting the epidemic. 

"It's absolutely essential, " said Tara Mochizuki with Interior Health. "Even with the overdose prevention sites, we still experienced five overdoses in the month of January."

"The question is 'will this change, having a mobile service here, be for the better or for the worst?" said Bob Hughes, Executive Director for Ask Wellness.

One of the main issues driving Hughes concerns is the site location restrictions put in place by Health Canada. 

"The challenge we face with this particular circumstance is, it's a mobile service that can't leave," said Hughes.

The Kamloops Business Improvement Association recently voiced concerns that the site, set to provide nursing and other drug prevention services on site, will be a magnet for crime and loitering.

It's a fear that has crossed Hughes mind as well.

"There's a rub there, and I understand the concerns with the B.I.A," said Hughes. "At the end of the day, it's a mobile service. If at the end of the day it doesn't work, we'll be the first to put our hand up and say 'this isn't working let's come up with an alternative'."

One thing the mobile injection site will not be providing, for now, is a place for people to inject drugs.

With more than 2,000 people accessing the North and South Shore overdose prevention sites since opening in December, Hughes says the mobile sites will provide extra support as well a more comfortable space for those in need.

"It allows for nursing services to operate in a more private and responsive manner," said Hughes.

"If you've ever been in the North Shore building, it's absolutely jam-packed. Having a 500-square foot mobile health resource people can step into right off the street is long overdue."

The wheels may be in motion to addressing the problem, but it's clear there's still plenty of questions to answer regarding the mobile site.

All staff can do, is wait and see.

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