Dr. Shannon Waters, the medical health officer for the Cowichan Valley Region, spoke to the City of Duncan’s council about the Valley’s overdose prevention site at its last meeting. (File photo)

Overdose Prevention Site fills vital need in the Valley: Island Health official

510 ‘unique’ clients who, together, average about 2,600 visits a month.

There may be as many as 2,100 people who inject illicit drugs in the Cowichan Valley, according to Dr. Shannon Waters.

Speaking to the City of Duncan’s council at its last meeting, Waters, the medical health officer for the Cowichan Valley region, said some recent studies indicate there are approximately 700 people who inject drugs in the Valley, but health officials believe the number is two to three times larger than that.

Waters said those large numbers are reflected at the Valley’s Overdose Prevention Site on Trunk Road.

“The OPS revealed a need that we didn’t know existed in the Valley,” she said.

“The site was not very busy when it first opened in 2017, but word-of-mouth got out, and now it has had more than 54,000 visits to date. We have identified 510 ‘unique’ clients who, together, average about 2,600 visits a month.”

RELATED STORY: DUNCAN OVERDOSE PREVENTION SITE WORKING AT CAPACITY

Waters said there has been an average of 5.6 overdoses per 1,000 visits at Trunk Road’s OPS, but there have been no overdose deaths to date at the site, or at the other sites around Vancouver Island.

“All of these overdoses could have ended up in death, but it’s significant that we’ve been able to prevent deaths at all the sites since they opened,” she said.

“Statistics also indicate that the OPS has lessened the number of overdose victims that end up in the emergency department at the Cowichan District Hospital. In 2017, the hospital had 151 overdose visits, and that went down to 94 in 2018 and 103 in 2019.”

RELATED STORY: LONG-AWAITED OVERDOSE PREVENTION SITE OPENS IN DUNCAN

But Waters said drug use still has a stigma attached to it, and a lot of users still choose to inject themselves at home, out of the eye of the public, and that’s where most of the overdose deaths occur.

She said sometimes, someone’s death is the first time other members of the household even know the person used drugs.

Waters said a number of other OPS sites on the Island are not as busy as the Valley’s, and Island Health is determining their future.

“Every community is different, and we have concentrations of people here that they don’t have in some other, more rural, parts of the Island,” she said.

“The populations are more dispersed is many of these other areas so it’s not feasible for some people to walk to their local OPS. There’s also a model here in which the OPS staff make people feel welcome and human. That’s not to say that the clients are not happy at the other sites, but it’s a varied picture across the Island.”

RELATED STORY: HUGE DEMAND SEES DUNCAN’S OVERDOSE PREVENTION SITE MOVING TO TRUNK ROAD

Waters said the opioid crisis is still ongoing, and the challenge continues to be how to get the communities around the OPS sites to see them as part of a larger service to the community to deal with it.

“We need to ensure we can set up the wrap-around services in each community, including mental heath programs and drug-supply pilot programs, and we want the communities to understand that we’re all in this together in dealing with the opioid crisis,” she said.



robert.barron@cowichanvalleycitizen.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

opioid crisis

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

Comments are closed

Just Posted

North Cowichan mayor answers questions about new RCMP detachment

The current building went up in 1980, when there were 30 people working there.

B.C. Supreme Court dismisses claim against Island Corridor Foundation

Snaw-Naw-As (Nanoose) First Nation was seeking return of reserve land as railway sits unused

Man dies at temporary Duncan tent site for homeless

First Nations man died at The Mound site

No doctor assisted death allowed at Hamlets in Duncan

Faith-based company that owns facility believes in sanctity of life

UPDATED: Minivan crashes into Merchants building in downtown Duncan

There is no word yet on the cause of the crash.

All community COVID-19 outbreaks declared over in B.C.

Abbotsford manufacturer cleared by Dr. Bonnie Henry

B.C. First Nations vow to keep fighting after Trans Mountain pipeline appeal denied

Squamish Nation, Tsleil-Waututh Nation and Coldwater Indian Band made the application

‘Queue jumpers’ not welcome in B.C. as COVID-19 U.S. cases rise: Horgan

Premier Horgan said he’s heard concerns that Americans have stopped at Vancouver hotels instead of heading to their destination

US officer resigns after photos, connected to death of black man in 2019, surface

Elijah McClain died, last summer, after police placed him in a chokehold

Black worker files discrimination complaint against Facebook

Oscar Veneszee, Jr. has worked as an operations program manager at Facebook since 2017

Nestle Canada selling bottled water business to local family-owned company

The Pure Life bottled water business is being sold to Ice River Springs

Major B.C. salmon farm tests new containment system to curb sea lice infestations

System “essentially eliminates” contact between wild and farmed fish stocks, says Cermaq

US unemployment falls to 11%, but new shutdowns are underway

President Donald Trump said the jobs report shows the economy is “roaring back”

Most Read