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Victoria to get first federally sanctioned supervised consumption site

Victoria will join Vancouver and Surrey (pictured above), in hosting a full-scale supervised consumption site.
Victoria will join Vancouver and Surrey (pictured above), in hosting a full-scale supervised consumption site. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

Vancouver Island is finally getting a federally approved supervised drug consumption site, but it could be some time before it is up and running.

Grant McKenzie with Our Place, the local support society that operates the city’s current overdose prevention site, said it will be another half-year before the new Health Canada approved consumption site opens.

“It’s not going to open until the spring or summer of 2018,” McKenzie said.

The new Pandora Community Health and Wellness Centre, to be located at 941 Pandora Avenue in Victoria, will be a full-scale supervised consumption site operating under Island Health.

READ MORE: Surrey safe-injection sites approved to supervise snorting drugs or taking them orally

That means that along with providing 10 booths to consume drugs under trained medical supervision, it will also offer other health services including mental health counselling, a nursing clinic, and referral to addiction treatment.

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That’s in contrast to the city’s current provincially-sanctioned overdose prevention site, which opened in December of last year.

In that facility, one of eight on Vancouver Island, staff are permitted only to use naloxone to revive overdoses.

“Providing supervised consumption services is a critical component of ensuring people can use drugs in a safe space and find supports there too, when they are ready to begin recovery,” said Minister of Mental Health and Addictions Judy Darcy in a statement.

READ MORE: City of Vancouver reports 5 overdose deaths in one week, warns of carfentanil presence

McKenzie said he has high hopes for the expanded mandate of the new facility.

“When somebody says I am at the end of my rope, I want to get into detox or want to get in to change by having the health professionals right there, they’ll be able to fast track that. They’ll really be able to help get people to the help they need quickly,” he said.

That’s crucial given that the existing Victoria facility is seeing about three overdoses a day, McKenzie said.

“When we look at the number of lives that we’ve saved, the number of overdoses we’ve treated — I hate to think what would have happened if we hadn’t been able to open that site.”

The existing prevention site will close when the new facility opens.

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Island Health currently has another joint application with the Portland Hotel Society to open a second supervised consumption street at 844 Johnston St. in Victoria, which remains before Health Canada.

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