Vernon politicians not all happy about possible OD prevention site

An effort to save lives from overdose is getting considerable backlash in Vernon.

Interior Health representatives shared plans for an Overdose Prevention Site to open in the summer or fall of 2019.

“It’s not a yes or no whether we will be offering overdose prevention services,” said Rae Samson, Interior Health administrator.

Following the 2016 state of emergency that was issued due to the opioid crisis, the Minister of Health has ordered that such services be provided where there is a need.

“We do know that Vernon is the third most impacted municipality in Interior Health,” said Karin Goodison, medical health officer with IH.

She points to statistics for Vernon alone which show 23 overdose deaths in 2017, 24 in 2018 and three people already in 2019.

READ MORE: Vernon overdose prevention site a priority: Interior Health

Taking a look at the larger picture, 2008 saw 183 people die from overdoses in B.C. and that has increased in a 10-year time frame to over 1,500 people, says Goodison.

“The cause of this is the presence of a poison…fentanyl,” she told Vernon council Monday afternoon.

While there has been a lot of work done in the past, almost three years now, since the state of emergency was declared, it is only being stabilized.

“We are far from being able to say we’ve got this under control,” said Goodison.

A request for proposals will soon be posted on B.C. Bid for parties with experience on operating an overdose prevention site.

“While Interior Health will provide funding and oversight, the overdose prevention site will be operated by a community partner,” according to an Interior Health press release 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. Other components include Opioid Agonist Treatments (such as methadone and Suboxone), intensive day and residential treatment programs, distribution of harm reduction supplies including Naloxone, and supportive recovery services.”

However, some Vernon politicians are not happy about it.

READ MORE: Overdose training challenge picks up in Vernon

A voice in the location is what Coun. Brian Quiring demands.

“We are the elected officials of the community, and we are cut out of the communication. And what can we do about it? Nothing. We have no input into where it goes at all.”

His suggestion that Vernon gets a say in potential locations is one Samson will be requesting.

“Our intention isn’t to disrupt the community, our intent is to work with the community,” said Goodison.

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Jennifer Smith

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Jennifer Smith

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