With a cancellation comes an opportunity.
Reacting to news received just prior to the start of Monday’s regular Vernon council meeting that Interior Health had cancelled requests for proposals (RFP) for an overdose prevention site (OPS) in the city, administrator Will Pearce said IH is now seeking additional input on the plan from what they say are key stakeholders on how the service is designed, and will re-post the RFP in the future.
“The significant step here is IHA stepped away from the RFP, in fact, they cancelled it,” said Pearce to council members, save for Kelly Fehr, who declared a conflict of interest on the subject and did not take part in the discussion, and Dalvir Nahal, who was absent from the meeting.
“I suggest, Mr. Mayor, this is an opportunity for this council to clearly express what it expects of a process conducted by the health authority and ultimately the proponent in a site selection – if a site is selected at all – for OPS services.”
At a council meeting March 25, IHA representatives Dr. Karin Goodison and Rae Samson announced to council that plans for an OPS site called for the facility to open in Vernon in the summer or fall, drawing considerable backlash from council as the city was not consulted on the decision.
Vernon, according to Goodison, a medical health officer with IH, is the third most impacted municipality within the health authority regarding overdoses.
The city had 23 overdose deaths in 2017, 24 in 2018 and have already had three in the first three months and a bit of 2019.
Pearce said administration encourages council to “clearly express what your expectations are as part of the consultation process.
“We can actually make a difference and people of the city can make a difference by speaking up and saying, ‘Hold on, we’re not ready to do this,’” said Coun. Scott Anderson, who requested that council and the public be included as key stakeholders for the consultation process.
Mayor Victor Cumming suggested adding the word “meaningful” in front of consultation, which Anderson agreed and made an amendment to a recommendation on the table. Anderson also said the topic is “perfect for a town-hall-style meeting.”
Council unanimous passed a motion that Cumming, on behalf of council, reply to IHA requesting IH add direction to the proponent or IH personnel to hold meaningful consulation with property owners (business and resides) adjacent to the proposed location of the overdose prevention site (within a minimum of 100 metres) and to council. And that such consultation include providing information to the property owners clearly describing the intended service, and to make provision for property owners clearly describing the intended service and to make provision for property owners to provide comments which the proponent or IH will respond to.
“While we hope to avoid any delay in implementing this important service, our goal is to establish a successful overdose prevention service that meets the needs of diverse community groups,” said Interior Health Monday.
“Establishing an overdose prevention site in Vernon is an important addition to the continuum of health-care services for people with opioid use disorders.”
Overdose prevention sites provide designated spaces to monitor people who use drugs and ensure that Naloxone and other lifesaving first aid is available in the event of an overdose. Unlike supervised consumption (injection) sites, overdose prevention sites do not require an application for exemption from federal drug laws.