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City’s overdose-prevention sites have had 25,000 visits: councillor

Victoria’s four overdose-prevention facilities have seen 25,000 visits since they opened, Coun. Marianne Alto said last week. In the midst of the fentanyl crisis, the four temporary sites opened in the city between December and March.
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Grant McKenzie, director of communications for Our Place, looks over the society's overdose-prevention site.

 

Victoria’s four overdose-prevention facilities have seen 25,000 visits since they opened, Coun. Marianne Alto said last week.

In the midst of the fentanyl crisis, the four temporary sites opened in the city between December and March. Alto said although there have been several overdoses, she doesn’t believe there have been any deaths at any of the facilities.

“I believe this is evidence that the sites are working and that a permanent location that could also have complementary health services would offer more and better harm-reduction — including referral to treatment and recovery — options,” she said.

Meanwhile, two applications to the federal government that have been made for exemptions to existing laws so permanent facilities can be created are still in the works, said Alto, the city’s liaison to the oversight committee.

Island Health has made an application for two permanent consumption facilities.

One would be for a 10-booth supervised-consumption service at 941 Pandora Ave., estimated to cost $1.8 million to build and an annual operating cost of $1.2 million, Alto said.

“It’s a public site, anticipated to be accessed by anyone,” Alto said, adding approval has been “a complicated process because it’s a large project.”

The federal government, after receiving the application, asked for additional information about policies, procedures, security and how unidentified and/or left-behind substances would be handled.

That information was submitted last month, Alto said, and Island Health, which has had some positive responses from Health Canada, expects approval shortly.

A second four-booth residential supervised-consumption site is proposed to be built inside 844 Johnson St. — the former Central Care Home, now called Johnson Street Community, is owned by B.C. Housing and managed by PHS Community Services as low-barrier housing.

The province bought the 147-unit building in 2016 to house homeless people living in the former tent city on the courthouse grounds.

The proposal is that the supervised-consumption site be for the use of residents of the facility. An application was made to the federal government last month, and no feedback has yet been received.

There has been an overdose-prevention site at the building since December 2016, one of several opened across the Island as an emergency measure in response to the overdose crisis.

Overdose-prevention sites are located at 919 Pandora Ave. (Our Place Society), 844 Johnson St., 713 Johnson St. (AIDS Vancouver Island) and 535 Ellice St. (Rock Bay Landing).

Alto said a partners project began early last year with participation from Island Health, Yes2SCS and the city. They now meet with the oversight committee for Services for Vulnerable Populations in Victoria, which includes AIDS Vancouver Island, Cool Aid Society, PHS Community Services, Our Place Society, Society of Living Illicit Drug Users and several Island Health departments.

bcleverley@timescolonist.com