The numbers are staggering, and worth our collective indrawn gasp of breath.
We were pleased with the announcement last week that the overdose prevention site in the City of Duncan will be changing location. While we support wholeheartedly (even more after seeing the latest stats, but more on that in a minute) having such a site in the community, the neighbourhood that was chosen has suffered from having it placed there and we hope that the new site will prove to be a better fit.
But we were shocked by the statistics that accompanied the announcement.
When the site was first opened last fall they had between 20 and 30 visits a month. That is now up to 50 visits a day. It’s worth repeating: 50 visits a day. Some of the increase is to be expected as drug users discover the site and find that it is a good place to go. But that kind of climb is incredibly sobering, indicative of just how big a problem drugs are in our community.
It’s clear that we have a crisis on our hands.
It’s also clear that the site is working. There have been more than 30 overdoses there since it opened — that’s 30 times someone would likely have died if it did not exist. The overdose prevention site is saving lives. That alone must trump any uproar over location, though the search for a better site in welcome.
The proliferation of discarded dirty needles in and around Duncan tells a sad tale of how much of the drug scourge is very, very serious — most users don’t start by injecting drugs. Fentanyl, of course, is the biggest part of the current crisis. Not that other drugs aren’t damaging, but fentanyl has been killing people in record numbers. Between January 2016 and June 2017 there were 25 overdose deaths in the Cowichan Valley alone.
So let’s try a new site, and another one after that if it doesn’t prove to be satisfactory. It’s not something we can do without.