In a press release today, Island Health announced a new, temporary inhalation-focused overdose prevention service will open in downtown Victoria.
The new inhalation overdose prevention service will operate at 926 Pandora Avenue on a lot owned by the City of Victoria.
“The toxic drug supply is killing people at unprecedented levels. We know that over half of people who use drugs prefer to consume drugs through inhalation or smoking,” said Sheila Malcolmson, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions said in the release.
According to the BC Coroners service, smoking has been the most common mode of consumption of illicit drugs in the province since 2017.
The site is scheduled to open mid to late November, with the start of operation dependent on construction and staff recruitment.
Once open, the site will operate for approximately ten months, as the lot is scheduled for re-development in late 2022.
Island Health has been searching for a permanent location for an inhalation overdose prevention service in Victoria for over a year and will continue to work to secure a permanent site for this service for the future.
“We continue to add more witnessed inhalation sites because they save lives. The new temporary location in Victoria is an important part of our response to connect more people with life-saving harm reduction services where they can also access health and treatment programs,” said Malcolmson.
The service will be open seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. and will be able to accommodate fifteen clients at a time.
The site will be outfitted with trailers for staff and supplies and a large covered area with ventilation that minimizes outdoor smoke.
The temporary location will also be fenced off, and shrubs and other greenery will be planted to decrease visibility to the public and increase privacy for those utilizing the service.
Staff responsibilities will include observing consumption, responding to overdoses, engaging with individuals, supporting client flow and providing referrals to clients interested in treatment.
Island Health is also increasing funding for security on Pandora Avenue.
Currently, Island Health funds or directly operates two publicly accessible supervised consumption/overdose prevention sites, the Harbour and Rock Bay Landing.
There is also a supervised consumption site, funded by Island Health for residents of the Johnson Street Community.
Although there are resources available in terms of supervised consumption/overdose prevention sites, there is still a need for publicly accessible inhalation overdose prevention services in Victoria.
“The toxic drug supply is continuing to cause fatal and non-fatal overdoses at a tragic, unacceptable rate across B.C. and here in Victoria,” said Dr. Richard Stanwick, Chief Medical Health Officer of Island Health,
“An overdose prevention service focused on supporting individuals who inhale substances will help save lives and improve peoples’ connections with health care services and social supports. Island Health is grateful to the City of Victoria for its support in making this temporary site feasible.”