Vancouver Island drug sites see 100K visits, Nanaimo councillor calls for more

Click to play video: 'New safe injection site opens in Victoria to help combat the growing overdose crisis'
New safe injection site opens in Victoria to help combat the growing overdose crisis
Dec., 2016: Vancouver Island's first overdose prevention site opens in Victoria – Dec 20, 2016

Since Vancouver Island opened its first overdose prevention site in Victoria in December 2016, the Vancouver Island Health Authority says its harm reduction facilities have seen more than 100,000 visits.

There are now nine overdose prevention and supervised consumption sites on Vancouver Island, in communities from Nanaimo to Campbell River to Port Alberni. Combined, they have presided over 820 overdose reversals and no deaths.

READ MORE: Safe consumption site opens in Victoria to help combat growing overdose crisis

The sites, now a common feature around British Columbia, feature trained staff equipped with naloxone who are able to reverse overdoses.

“Overdose prevention services are saving lives,” said Dr. Richard Stanwick, Island Health chief medical health officer in a media release. “These sites are one of many tools we’re using to tackle the opioid crisis, and it is clear that without these services, more people would have lost their lives.”

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However, at least one Vancouver Island councillor thinks the region isn’t doing enough.

Coun. Gord Fuller of Nanaimo spearheaded that city’s first unsanctioned “pop-up” overdose prevention site, and said too many people are still using drugs alone and at home. He argues that the region is relying too heavily on larger, central facilities — when what is needed is many smaller sites.

READ MORE: Victoria to get first federally sanctioned supervised consumption site

“If you can put injection sites closer to where they live, or in the building they live in, then there would be less people dying,” Fuller said.

“That would give a greater opportunity for more people to actually utilize those sites.”

Fuller pointed to the model being implemented in Victoria, which he said he’d like to see exported to Nanimo and other cities on the island.

“They’ve applied for six safe injection sites I believe, and one of the first ones that’s actually been approved is for a supportive housing building… for the tenants and guests of the tenants.”

There were 1,422 overdose deaths in B.C. in 2017, 232 of them on Vancouver Island.

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