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Construction underway for permanent drug injection site in downtown Kelowna

This building at the corner of Leon Avenue and Pandosy Street in downtown Kelowna will be the future site of a permanent drug injection site. Global News

A building in downtown Kelowna that once housed a community college is being transformed into a permanent drug injection site.

The building, at the corner of Leon Avenue and Pandosy Street, is currently under construction and being leased by the Interior Health Authority (IHA).

The facility will be Kelowna’s first permanent injection site.

Read more: Drug users at higher risk of dying amid coronavirus 2nd wave as services scale back

Jyuna Nakamura owns the Wasabi Ramen restaurant next door.

He told Global News he has some concerns about his future neighbour.

“Security in this area and also security for customers,” he said.

But he also said it could beneficial for the area as a whole.

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“We won’t see many disposed needles on the ground that I usually see,” Nakamura said.

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For the past three years, IHA has used an RV has as a mobile drug injection site.

It’s often parked behind the Cornerstone shelter on Leon Avenue, across from where the permanent site will be located.

IHA has not released many details about its plans, but in an email to Global News it stated:

“Last year, Interior Health began working with stakeholders to coordinate moving the Outreach Urban Health primary care clinic to a more suitable location, and take the opportunity to combine pre-existing community services under one roof.”

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The statement goes on to say “we aim to enhance collaboration, patient convenience, and care continuity; while improving privacy, safety and security.”

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The executive director of the Downtown Kelowna Association (DKA) said with the project going ahead, it will be monitoring it closely to make sure safety concerns are addressed.

“It’s out of our control, so what we are doing is holding their feet to the fire to be good neighbours, have security on site, so that this does not affect all the businesses and other things that are around that area,” said Mark Burley, DKA’s executive director.

Read more: Overdose prevention site coming to downtown Vernon, B.C.

Some people who work and own businesses in the area said they are disappointed they were not advised by the health authority of its plans.

“Local news, that’s how I found out,” Nakamura said.

It’s not known when the new site will be up and running, or exactly what other services will be offered there, but IHA promised to release the details soon.

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