The Greater Vernon Chamber of Commerce fully supports the City of Vernon in its call for enhanced community engagement for a proposed overdose prevention site.
Interior Health is issuing a request for proposals for a contractor to deliver overdose prevention services in Vernon, including a fixed overdose prevention site.
“We appreciate that a public health emergency has been declared in B.C. and that Interior Health and other organizations are taking steps to save lives. However, we share the City of Vernon’s concern that there isn’t sufficient community involvement in identifying a suitable location for a prevention site or if such a facility is even needed in the community,” said Diana Wilson, Greater Vernon Chamber president.
“Those contractors submitting bids to operate the overdose prevention site must identify the steps they will take to consult with local government and businesses and residents near the proposed site, but that engagement may be too late in the process, particularly in determining if a location for the facility meets the community’s needs. We would call on Interior Health to ensure the City of Vernon is part of the process evaluating bids to operate the overdose prevention site and that city council be asked to sanction the location of the facility prior to IH agreeing to the contractor’s proposal. If the city doesn’t support a specific location, then that site should be abandoned.
“Ideally, there would also be an opportunity for a representative from the community at large to be part of evaluating the bid applications,” said Wilson.
Interior Health officials told Vernon city council they are committed to working with all stakeholders so an overdose prevention site does not have a negative impact on the community.
“If Interior Health and the Ministry of Health want to ensure the success of an overdose prevention site in Vernon while addressing concerns from the community, there needs to be a comprehensive strategy to interact with city council, businesses, local health care professionals and residents, and it needs to occur prior to selecting a facility contractor and not after the fact,” said Wilson.