May 17, 2019 8:09 pm

Vernon chamber of commerce against overdose prevention site in downtown core

Crews pick up a discarded needle while cleaning up a Vernon homeless camp in 2016. The Greater Vernon Chamber of Commerce says an overdose prevention site in the city is a good idea, but it should be located near the hospital, not the downtown core.

Global News

Thanks, but somewhere else please.

That’s the message the Greater Vernon Chamber of Commerce handed Interior Health regarding an overdose prevention site in the city’s downtown core.

READ MORE: Temporary overdose prevention site set up in downtown Kelowna

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On Friday, the chamber of commerce said it met with Interior Health representatives to discuss plans on establishing an overdose prevention site (OPS) in Vernon. The chamber of commerce added that, based on what its members are saying, placing it in the downtown core isn’t a good idea.

“We appreciate that IH is mandated by the provincial government to respond to overdose deaths, and the strategy includes an OPS,” said Greater Vernon chamber president Diana Wilson.

“The determination of a suitable location for the OPS is critical to the success of the program, as is the acceptance of the SOP by businesses and the community at large.”

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Wilson added that “our members are telling us they are very concerned that an OPS in the downtown core will compound existing safety concerns and decrease property values.

“There is a strong level of compassion among business owners and they want individuals to be able to access the help they need, but they are also seeking assurances that their businesses and customers will not be negatively impacted by an OPS.”

Instead of locating the overdose prevention site downtown, the chamber suggested it be placed at or adjacent to Vernon Jubilee Hospital.

WATCH BELOW (Aired Sept. 6, 2018): ‘Evidence is clear’ that overdose prevention sites save lives: B.C.

“The hospital is within a short walking distance of downtown and there are a range of services available at the hospital, particularly during an emergency,” said Wilson.

The chamber also said it suggested that the site selection should follow a distinct process, separate from the request for proposal for the OPS service provider.

According to the chamber, the site selection process needs to consider the economic and social impact on neighbouring businesses.

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“We also stated that any service providers bidding on the OPS need to detail how they will engage with businesses and the community before a facility opens and once it is open,” said Wilson.

“There must be a long-term commitment to meaningful communications, from both the OPS service provider and IH.”

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