A drug user prepares drugs at theoverdose prevention site in Our Place in Victoria. (Arnold Lim/Black Press)

A drug user prepares drugs at theoverdose prevention site in Our Place in Victoria. (Arnold Lim/Black Press)

OD prevention sites ‘important function’ for people already using

Health officer says need for longterm solutions for opioid crisis

After a public health emergency was issued late last year, an Island Health medical health officer says organizations and the province now need to look at more routine health services.

Paul Hasselback, a medical health officer with Vancouver Island Health Authority, said when the opioid crisis first came to light, health officials and the public didn’t know enough when starting out. Hasselback said he’s still not sure what a longer-term solution would look like or how it would be facilitated.

“How do we facilitate this so that not just big cities benefit from it?” Hasselback said. “And yes, maybe that means some sort of service in Parksville Qualicum Beach. We could be looking at more remote sites that are much smaller, but we also need to think about how do we provide the service?”

RELATED: Parksville passes on safe-injection site

RELATED: ODs in Parksville Qualicum Beach high for rural area

The City of Parksville has experienced an increase in drug use and transient/homeless encampments, according to a report from chief administrative officer Debbie Comis. Her report included an option to request Island Health provide a needle sweep and disposal service and for the mayor to write to the health authority to request funding for an overdose prevention site within the city.

Parksville city council instead voted to continue to monitor the transient and drug use situation in the municipality for the next six months.

In the area comprising School District 69 (Qualicum), there were 13 fatalities suspected to be due to opioid overdoses in an 18-month period from Jan. 1, 2016 to June 30, 2017.

Hasselback said of the nine overdose prevention sites currently located on the Island, eight have served 42,000 individuals since the first location opened in December, 2016.

The ninth location opened in Duncan on Sept. 12.

RELATED: Long awaited overdose prevention site opens in Duncan

Hasselback said each site has been fairly well-used, but there is variability between sites. In Nanaimo, he said, they’re averaging about 225 visits per week in the last month and Port Alberni is in the 150-200 range.

In Courtenay and Campbell River, Hasselback said, they are in the 10-20 visits per week range, but the two locations have shorter hours than Nanaimo and Port Alberni.

Asked whether or not the overdose prevention sites are helping to save lives, Hasselback said about one in 100 individuals that come to the sites has an overdose that requires intervention. He said that number is pretty consistent for all the sites.

“One could say that’s the number of lives we save… I usually put it more that one per cent has an overdose that needs to be intervened upon,” Hasselback said.

He added that overdose prevention sites are an important function for people who are currently using, and it’s part of the cycle of the dependency, or addiction, disorder.

“I think there’s a misconception out there that people who are currently using, it’s a choice the next time they’re going to take a drug — it really isn’t,” Hasselback said. “That’s why it’s called an addiction or dependency disorder. We need to meet them where they currently are, not where we would like them to be.

“In order for us to provide support treatment, we need to begin someplace and we need to have a way of developing a trusting relationship. We need to be able to have a location where people can come where they’re not being judged.”

He said the sites aren’t just about preventing overdoses, but are also places people can engage and establish relationships with care providers where they have enough trust to then begin looking at other intervention services the users may benefit from.

“They have really good success stories about how they have taken an individual from needing a sort of protection of the service to a situation where they’re under appropriate treatment,” said Hasselback, adding they do have a bit of information of the use of prescriptions.

Hasselback did admit that probably not enough information on the subject has been collected, but he said there should be better information collected in the near future as VIHA sees how much success and utilization of treatment is actually in place.

“I think this is all part of the response and showing us that we’re needing to do this and that it’s making a difference.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

An elk got his antlers caught up in a zip line in Youbou over the weekend. (Conservation Officer Service Photo)
Elk rescued from zip line in Youbou

Officials urge people to manage items on their property that can hurt animals

Egg producers in B.C. aren’t obligated to reveal their production sites. (Sarah Simpson/Citizen)
Not enough local eggs to meet demand: officials

BC Egg Marketing Board doesn’t regulate labelling

The new Malahat Skywalk is expected to be completed by this summer. (Submitted graphic)
Malahat Skywalk expected to be complete by this summer

$15-million project will see 650-metre elevated wooden pathway constructed

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry prepares a daily update on the coronavirus pandemic, April 21, 2020. (B.C. Government)
B.C. adjusts COVID-19 vaccine rollout for delivery slowdown

Daily cases decline over weekend, 31 more deaths

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

A female prisoner sent Langford police officers a thank-you card after she spent days in their custody. (Twitter/West Shore RCMP)
Woman gives Victoria-area jail 4.5-star review in handwritten card to police after arrest

‘We don’t often get thank you cards from people who stay with us, but this was sure nice to see’: RCMP

A Trail man has a lucky tin for a keepsake after it saved him from a stabbing last week. File photo
Small tin in Kootenay man’s jacket pocket saved him from stabbing: RCMP

The man was uninjured thanks to a tin in his jacket

Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation Chantel Moore, 26, was fatally shot by a police officer during a wellness check in the early morning of June 4, 2020, in Edmundston, N.B. (Facebook)
Frustrated family denied access to B.C. Indigenous woman’s police shooting report

Independent investigation into B.C. woman’s fatal shooting in New Brunswick filed to Crown

Delta Police Constable Jason Martens and Dezi, a nine-year-old German Shepherd that recently retired after 10 years with Delta Police. (Photo submitted)
Dezi, a Delta police dog, retires on a high note after decade of service

Nine-year-old German Shepherd now fights over toys instead of chasing down bad guys

Nurses collect samples from a patient in a COVID suspect room in the COVID-19 intensive care unit at St. Paul’s hospital in downtown Vancouver, Tuesday, April 21, 2020. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward)
5 British Columbians under 20 years old battled COVID-19 in ICU in recent weeks

Overall hospitalizations have fallen but young people battling the virus in hospital has increased

Canada released proposed regulations Jan. 2 for the fisheries minister to maintain Canada’s major fish stocks at sustainable levels and recover those at risk. (File photo)
New laws would cement DFO accountability to depleted fish stocks

Three B.C. salmon stocks first in line for priority attention under proposed regulations

Trees destroyed a Shoreacres home during a wind storm Jan. 13, 2021. Photo: Submitted
Kootenay woman flees just before tree crushes house

Pamala DeRosa is thankful to be alive

Most Read