Integrated safe consumption centre to open in Victoria next week
Members of the media were given a tour of Victoria’s new supervised consumption site on Thursday morning, before its official opening next week.
The Pandora Supervised Consumption Centre will be home to a range of services for drug users including naloxone kits, nurses, ambulance paramedics, addiction counsellors, wound care, nutrition advice, physician care, people who can help provide housing and 10 booths to consume drugs under trained medical supervision.
Mental Health and Addictions Minister Judy Darcy describes it as a very robust health and social support team, adding safe consumption sites like this one save lives because they’re community-driven and bring together various harm-reduction services.
“We are not losing lives at safe consumption sites or at overdose prevention sites, not in B.C., not anywhere across the country, not anywhere across North America,” Darcey said at the tour of the new facility.
WATCH: Safe injection site opens in Victoria next week
Putting into perspective how effective these sites have been, Darcy said 5,300 overdoses have been reversed and there have been more than 800,000 visits to safe consumption sites in B.C.
“Not a single life has been lost,” she added.
However, one of the biggest problems that have to be tackled, according to Dave Keeler with the Society of Living Illicit Drug Users (SOLID), is the judgement drug users face.
“Stigma is a huge part of people not coming in and using these services,” Keeler said at the event.
“We are going to make this site work… we are going to save lives and make sure everyone goes home to their families at night.”
That’s why there’s a push to emphasize that mental health isn’t a moral issue, it’s a health issue, Island Health chief medical officer Dr. Richard Stanwick said.
“We really believe this is a chronic relapsing disease of the brain that should not be treated differently than Type 1 diabetes or other diseases,” said Stanwick.
He said this site is over a decade in the making, adding that in 2006 there were 16 deaths in Victoria sparking a discussion about exploring the idea of providing a safe injection site.
“The irony is that in terms of time, nothing happened until today. It was literally three CEO’s, three mayors, three premiers before we accomplished this,” he said.
“I think from a personal perspective what is most distressing is that we have lost 400 individuals since we first considered creating the supervised consumption site.”
The federally sanctioned supervised consumption centre, located at 941 Pandora Avenue in Victoria, will be operated under Island Health.
~ With files from Simon Little and Liza Yuzda
WATCH: New safe injection site opens in Victoria to help combat the growing overdose crisis
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