Members of Vernon’s city council voted in favour of sending a letter to the province asking for the reconsideration of relocating Interior Health’s downtown overdose prevention site on May 25, 2020. (Jonathan Hayward - The Canadian Press)

Members of Vernon’s city council voted in favour of sending a letter to the province asking for the reconsideration of relocating Interior Health’s downtown overdose prevention site on May 25, 2020. (Jonathan Hayward - The Canadian Press)

Reconsider downtown Vernon OD prevention site: city council

Several members of council voiced concerns about Interior Health’s expansion

Some Vernon councillors voiced their concerns about the downtown location of Interior Health’s overdose prevention site.

Coun. Kari Gares made a motion Monday, May 25, to send a letter to the province requesting the health authority reconsiders as neighbouring businesses were not properly consulted in the process.

“Evidence there was zero consultation is a concern of those private business owners in the immediate vicinity,” Gares said, adding some have admitted they have already lost revenue.

“Whether or not this (letter) gets any attention,” Gares said. “We’re simply giving those stakeholders a voice.”

Gares instead suggested the best location for an OPS is at the Vernon Jubilee Hospital.

Coun. Kelly Fehr disagreed, noting many of the people who would require the services of an OPS are in the downtown area.

Fehr also noted its location next to a methadone clinic is an ideal location.

“I don’t see how you could find a more perfect place,” he said.

Coun. Dalvir Nahal said her concerns are in regards to how the health authority went about collecting data in its consultation processes and the lack of transparency in its findings.

She questioned why Interior Health didn’t release the results of its survey.

“The whole point was to get public opinion, why wouldn’t they share it?” she asked, noting she felt it was “shady.”

“No one is debating whether we need one or not,” Nahal said of an OPS site.

“At the end of the day, they’re (Interior Health) going to do what they’re going to do, but it’s important for us to voice our concerns,” Nahal said.

Mayor Victor Cumming was against the idea of sending a letter to the ministry as no one on council could be considered medical experts.

“I don’t think it’s our area of expertise to tell the province where the site should go,” the mayor said.

Councillors for the sending of the letter agreed the need for an overdose prevention site is there, but its downtown location would have detrimental effects on neighbouring businesses.

The motion was passed with the mayor and Coun. Fehr opposed.

Interior Health announced its Downtown Primary Care Centre at 3306A-32nd Avenue was expanded to include the OPS Monday, May 11.

The facility, which is leased and operated by the health authority, includes a full staff of 16 with two psychiatric specialists that will serve those combatting addictions between 9-3 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Director of clinical operations Colleen McEwan told council May 11 neighbouring businesses would be provided with a direct line to report issues that may arise.

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 injection sites, an OPS does not require an application for exemption from federal drug laws.

READ MORE: Overdose prevention site selected for downtown Vernon

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@caitleerach
Caitlin.clow@vernonmorningstar.com

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