The City of Duncan has placed a new sharps disposal for discarded needles in Duncan’s McAdam Park after finding abandoned drug paraphernalia on the property of a nearby preschool. (Citizen file)

The City of Duncan has placed a new sharps disposal for discarded needles in Duncan’s McAdam Park after finding abandoned drug paraphernalia on the property of a nearby preschool. (Citizen file)

City of Duncan, Island Health clashing over overdose prevention site location

Officals still searching for an optimal site

Officials say the hunt for an overdose prevention site in the Duncan area is still underway and while specific sites have been eyed, nothing has been set in stone.

On June 6, Duncan mayor Phil Kent wrote a letter to the chair of the Island Health board stating that while council recognized the need for a safe injection site, they still had some location concerns.

“Council has made resolution to support an overdose prevention site and Island Health is still trying to move forward with the site because they believe and we believe that that’s necessary in the Cowichan area,” Kent said. “With respect to how and where they do it, we did write a letter to them expressing some concerns with some identified sites.”

The locations of those sites were not disclosed publicly to protect third parties as there’s no specific agreement on a site at this point.

The City of Duncan has no regulatory jurisdiction for the issue because it’s a provincial health emergency legislation and Health Authorities across the province have the ability to set up overdose prevention sites, Kent explained, noting though that Island Health has been working with the city and other stakeholders to find a suitable location.

“They’ve been set up in many communities and I’ve spoken with a number of the mayors in other communities to find out what their experience has been and I haven’t heard any negative experiences,” Kent said.

“We’re continuing to explore locations and alternative service models. Island Health remains committed to establishing this service in Duncan as Overdose Prevention services have proven to save lives,” said Island Health spokesperson Shannon Marshall. “We are also committed to continuing to work with stakeholders, including the City, to ensure the Overdose Prevention Service model meets the needs of clients and is accessible to them while also addressing needs in the broader community in terms of service model and service location.”

Kent is pleased with the action Island Health has taken as a response to council, and to community concerns about discarded needles strewn all over town, including parks and other public spaces.

“We expressed a great deal of concern with respect to sharps in the community and so Island Health has stepped up and they have now a sweep program going on to collect needles, identifying more public information with respect to where needles can be discarded if we do find them and collect them safely, ways to collect them safely if you come across them. But the sweeps are, I understand, going to be seven days a week and so it’s already underway,” Kent said.

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