KAMLOOPS — Health Canada has issued its approval of the first mobile supervised consumption sites in B.C., located in Kamloops and Kelowna.
In Kamloops, the service will be added to the current mobile overdose prevention site, which is set up inside a motorhome.
The unit is already equipped to take on the new service, which Interior Health expects will be operational within two weeks.
"What changes now is that Health Canada is giving us permission to have people come on the bus and inject drugs under supervision, so the staff are now going to be able to monitor the process of injection and provide tips to users on how to do safer drug use," said Dr. Silvina Mema, medical health officer for Interior Health.
Since early June, the retro-fitted motorhome has been providing overdose prevention services at two locations in Kamloops, outside the Crossroads Inn on Seymour, and behind ASK Wellness on Tranquille.
"It's complimented what we were offering here in the overdose prevention service starting in late December," said ASK Wellness Executive Director Bob Hughes. "It has been for the first time in several years we've had enough resources to at least manage what was becoming unmanageable."
ASK Wellness will continue to run overdose prevention services, while supervised consumption is added to the mobile unit.
"I don't see it being a really difficult transition for Interior Health staff to actually introduce the supervised consumption," Hughes said. "It continues to be resourced enough with us providing the kind of wrap around services in order for it to not create problems for people in the neighbourhood."
The overdose crisis in B.C. has hit Kamloops particularly hard, with 41 deaths in Kamloops last year.
"Kamloops had the highest number of overdose deaths last year," Mema said. "Though things seem to be looking a little bit better in Kamloops, we continue to work towards offering people who use drugs safe environments where they can use and access to treatments."
The mobile supervised consumption sites in Kamloops and Kelowna will be the first in the province, and among the first in Canada.
"It's by no means the solution," Mema said. "We are working towards a number of solutions using the four pillar strategy, which includes enforcement, prevention, education, treatment, and harm reduction. This is a harm reduction initiative. So, it's one of the things we can do, and we are pleased to say that we can now offer that."
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