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No ‘stand-alone’ drug consumption site coming to Richmond, health officials say

Click to play video: 'Second night of debate in Richmond'
Second night of debate in Richmond
For a second straight night, Richmond City Hall was packed with people as council heard public input on a plan to endorse a supervised consumption site in the city. Monday's meeting became unruly at times. Cassidy Mosconi shows us how Tuesday night went – Feb 14, 2024

In the wake of a highly contentious council vote in Richmond, B.C., to explore the possibility of a safe drug consumption site, health officials are clarifying they have no plans to build an isolated facility in the community.

Following two nights of heated hearings, councillors voted 7-2  Tuesday evening in favour of considering a supervised drug consumption site at the city’s hospital.

Click to play video: 'Demonstrations continue at Richmond City Hall over proposed safe consumption site'
Demonstrations continue at Richmond City Hall over proposed safe consumption site

Monday’s hearings grew heated, with shouting in the hallways, at least one person escorted away by police and Mayor Malcolm Brodie demanding calm when demonstrators chanted “No drugs!” in the council chambers.

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The decision on whether to establish a site in the city falls to Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH).

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In a letter to the mayor and council, VCH’s Richmond medical health officer expressed support for overdose prevention services — both injection and inhalation — in the city, along with an “analysis in order to identify a range of solutions that may be appropriate to our local context.”

But in a followup statement to Global News, VCH said it had no plans to build a stand-alone facility.

Click to play video: 'Reaction to Richmond safe injection site plan'
Reaction to Richmond safe injection site plan

“Based on the latest Public Health data, a stand-alone supervised consumption site is not the most appropriate service for those at risk of overdose in Richmond. Stand-alone sites work best in communities where there is a significant concentration of people at-risk, since people will not travel far for these services,” the health authority said.

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“VCH will continue working with the City of Richmond to assess how we can strengthen overdose prevention services and keep people in the local community safe so they can access treatment – but we will not be moving forward with a stand-alone supervised consumption site.”

The health authority confirmed that a consumption site at the Richmond hospital would qualify as a “stand-alone” facility.

According to VCH, Richmond is home to more than 1,000 people with opioid use disorder, and about 600 people with a stimulant use disorder.

The Richmond Local Health Area has a lower rate of drug fatalities compared with other B.C. regions, with the number slowly decreasing, it added.

VCH said it plans to keep working with the city to expand access to addiction treatment options in the community.

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