More people are speaking out against possible locations for an overdose prevention site in Vernon.
Interior Health said it still hasn’t decided on a location for the proposed Vernon overdose prevention site. The facility would allow people to use drugs in a supervised setting and is expected to prevent overdose deaths and reduce public drug use, according to the health authority.
Councillor Scott Anderson plans to present a citizen-initiated petition to council asking to keep the facility out of Vernon’s downtown.
The petition request reads: “We the undersigned are concerned citizens who are opposed to the placement of an Overdose Prevention Site in downtown Vernon, B.C. We say NO!”
It’s been signed by more than 300 residents and downtown business owners.
“This initiative comes directly from the grassroots — business and property owners who are fighting to survive economically in an increasingly disruptive environment, as well as concerned citizens who have every right to expect safety downtown,” Anderson said in a news release.
“If Interior Health is going to open an overdose prevention site, it should be far away from a downtown already suffering from increased lawlessness, vagrancy, and drug sales,” he said.
The Vernon Chamber of Commerce and Downtown Vernon Association are advocating for the site to be located at Vernon Jubilee Hospital.
“Our understanding of the opioid crisis is that this crisis is a medical crisis, and as such, the most logical location for medical service to address the crisis is at or near a medical facility,” Downtown Vernon Association executive director Susan Lehman said in a news release.
Anderson also said the hospital location would be within walking distance of downtown and the shelter, and it is linked to the public transportation system.
“It fulfills all the criteria demanded by Interior Health, including its advertised goal of balancing the needs of all stakeholders,” he said.
If the overdose prevention site is located in a business improvement area, the Downtown Vernon Association is calling for Interior Health or the service provider to cover any extra security measures that are needed for surrounding businesses or public spaces.
It also wants to see the service provider held to a three- to six-month contract performance review, and for a feedback mechanism where businesses can communicate to the service provider.