Council gives safe injection site concept thumbs up

By James Peters / Tanya Cronin
September 13, 2016 - 3:04pm Updated: September 13, 2016 - 7:30pm

KAMLOOPS — City Council has voted unanimously in favour of the concept of a supervised drug injection site in the city. 

Council was responding to a presentation from Dr. Silvina Mema, a Medical Health Officer with Interior Health. Mema told council IH is considering as many as two sites in the city. 

Overdose deaths have skyrocketed in the province, in part because of Fentanyl. In Kamloops, The Interior Health Authority predicts this year's total could end up being six times more than last year. 

But there is still a long process to go through, before the pilot project gets the green light.

It's known to be 100 times more powerful than Heroin, Morphine or Oxycodone. Fentanyl has been linked to countless overdoses in Kamloops in recent months, many of them fatal.

"In Kamloops, the number of deaths have tripled in half the time, that means there were 7 overdose deaths last, and this year, we've seen 22 in the first six months," says Dr. Silvina Mema, IHA Medical Health Officer.

The Interior Health Authority is taking charge to try and combat the rising number of drug overdoses in the region. Medical Health Officer Dr. Silvina Mema stood before Kamloops City Council Tuesday, with a proposal to open a safe-injection site.

"This is one more piece of work we are doing to address people who are actively injecting drugs and don't have a place to inject, and don't have someone to look after them, this is going to help but it's not the solution," says Dr. Mema.

Dr. Mema told council, IH is considering two sites in the city, to be operated on a one year, pilot basis. And while there are still hurdles to clear, including finding a suitable location, consulting with stakeholders and applying for an exemption from Health Canada, Kamloops council has voted unanimously in favour of the concept.

"I'm not supporting this because I think this is the magical solution to everything, but it's certainly another step in some way to minimize the impact on personal lives, as well as the community in general," says Peter Milobar, Mayor of Kamloops.

"Things like providing Naloxone to Kamloops Fire Rescue would be another way to save lives, and doubling the street nurse presence in Kamloops would be another way to save lives, looking at the expansion of Car 40 would be another way to intervene,"        says Ken Christian, City Councillor.

"I'm sure Interior Health will do it right and I'm happy to stand by their recommendations when it's hopefully approved by Health Canada, and comes back to us," says Tina Lange, City Councillor.

Instead of a standalone site, the safe consumption clinic would be located alongside an already existing harm-reduction service for people using drugs. While supportive of the concept, social agencies like Ask Wellness have told Interior Health, they don't have the facilities to provide the service, and such a site is a tool, but not the ultimate answer. 

"Simply doing supervised consumption without having a proportionate amount of access to detox, to treatment, to housing, we will end up with people out on the street consuming drugs and creating havoc in neighbourhoods," says Bob Hughes, Executive Director of Ask Wellness Society.

Like at Insight located in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside, the only surpervised injection site in all of North America, users could take both prescription and street drugs they have previously obtained. And it would all be under trained medical supervision.

"There is evidence that comes from also Europe, other places like Australia, that suggest that this is a good thing do for the people who use drugs on the streets, so we would be expecting that outcome," says Dr. Mema.





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