Vernon’s long-discussed Interior Health overdose prevention site is likely to come down the pipeline this year, a health services administrator said.
Danielle Cameron, health services administrator of mental health and substance use with Interior Health, said this plan has been in the works since the province declared the opioid crisis in April 2016. While specific details such as when, where and for how much have yet to be decided, Cameron said this is a priority project.
“The conversation has been going on for some time. When the opioid crisis was announced and declared, we started really looking across the province to help people who use drugs to keep them safe,” Cameron said. “Some communities have moved along from the planning phase to having them up and running. Vernon hasn’t moved along as quickly as some other communities.”
Some of the issues impeding the overdose prevention site’s implementation include space and finding partnering agencies. One potential solution to address space concerns would see a mobile prevention site, though Cameron said those details are still in discussion.
“It is our firm belief Vernon still requires a facility. It would be a good addition to the facilities that already exist,” Cameron said. “It’s really getting more close. It is a priority for us. I can confidently say within the 2019 calendar year.”
Despite the overdose prevention site’s purpose is safety for those who already use, Cameron said there is a misconception in some communities that a site could promote drug use.
“The reality is that these are services that are designed for people who are already using,” Cameron said. “It’s for people recognizing there is risk involved. It helps keep them more safe.”
Through the site, Interior Health support workers can connect those in need with other support services, such as addiction therapy, in a move to mitigate the impact of the crisis. According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, more than 2,000 Canadians died from an opioid overdose in the first half of 2018. British Columbia saw 754 of those 2,066 deaths.
“People are dying as a result of this crisis,” Cameron said. “There are people everywhere impacted by this. It’s hard to find people these days that are completely unaffected.”