Victoria overdose deaths renew call for supervised injection site
'It's time that we start actually providing comprehensive harm reduction,' says social worker
A recent spate of deaths likely caused by drug overdoses in Victoria have advocates calling for a supervised injection site and better health care for drug users in the city.
"We supply people with safe, clean supplies and nowhere to use them. And then we wonder why people die," said Bruce Wallace, assistant professor at the University of Victoria's School of Social Work.
"It's time that we start actually providing comprehensive harm reduction and we start addressing why we're stigmatizing and criminalizing people."
- Greater Victoria sees 8 suspected drug overdose deaths in a week
- Vancouver drug overdose death toll rises to 4 within last 24 hours
The BC Coroners Service said drugs are likely the cause of eight deaths in Greater Victoria over the past week.
Health officials in Victoria and Vancouver have been warning drug users about fentanyl, a highly potent and dangerous opioid increasingly being mixed with illegal narcotics across the country.
The coroner is still waiting on toxicology reports in seven of the deaths, but in one case, a drug overdose has been confirmed.
The man, who died in a downtown Victoria parkade last Saturday, was found to have a mixed cocktail of drugs, including fentanyl, in his system.
Frequent drug users at risk
Of the 30 overdoses in the past few weeks in the Greater Victoria Area, five of them have been tied to a homeless camp near the city's courthouse, say officials.
Residents of the camp say a man who lived there, Brad Paul, was found dead in his tent and have erected a small memorial in his name.
But, they say, they're concerned about more than just those who live at the camp.
"So many have died outside of just this camp, and they just get forgotten," said camp resident Sean Manley.
Many in the tent city carry an emergency kit that contains Naloxone, an opioid blocker that can quickly reverse the effects of an overdose.
It's a kit that some advocates say can play a big part in helping to prevent overdose deaths.
"These things save lives, everyone should have the training and a Naloxone kit on them," said safe injection site advocate Darrin Murphy.
The kits have only been available to the general public for the past year.
With files from Richard Zussman