Mobile overdose prevention unit sees 900 visits in first two months

By Jill Sperling
September 12, 2017 - 4:35pm Updated: September 12, 2017 - 6:06pm

KAMLOOPS — In response to the fentanyl crisis in this city, Interior Health and ASK Wellness began providing a mobile overdose prevention service in June. 

"We've had 900 visits to our site here for the data that we've collected for June and July and the trend for usage is going up," said Rae Samson, administrator for Mental Health and Substance Use for Interior Health West.

In July Interior Health received the Health Canada approval needed to provide supervised consumption services in the retro-fitted motorhome. 

Since then visitors have been able to inject their drugs in the unit under close supervision.

Staff also monitor the users for any signs of an overdose.

"We have had a small number of overdoses on the unit," Samson said, "and the staff were able to respond by providing THN (Take Home Naloxone), so the Naloxone kits, and then calling first responders."

In addition to saving lives, Samson says the mobile unit is also connecting users to much needed services.

"In the time that we've been operating, we've been able to refer a number of people into the system of care, so into other mental health and substance use services, housing services, getting people connected to physician services for opiate substitution therapies," Samson said. "The number for referrals between Kamloops and Kelowna for the first two months was 700 people (who) have been connected to other services."

However, ASK Wellness Executive Director Bob Hughes says convincing people to move into treatment programs remains a challenge. 

"We're saving peoples' lives through Naloxone and through the reduction of blood borne infections through the supervised consumption service," Hughes said, "but I'm still really disappointed, not at any particular group or anything, I'm just discouraged frankly that we just can't seem to get these people to buy into a care model that moves them off the street, and starts to see a reduction in their drug use. That's, I think, the biggest quandry we face right now."

Agencies involved with the unit are also attempting to keep needles off the streets, and out of public areas.

"We are working all the time with our community partners, and with ASK Wellness, trying to target specific areas where we're really having problems with needles being left out," Samson said. "For this area, we're very close to a daycare by the Crossroads property, so we want to make sure that we're targeting that area and helping to support the pickup of needles." 

The mobile supervised consumption unit is a first of its kind service in Canada, and Samson is hoping it will continue to save lives and open up opportunities for recovery. 

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