British Columbia

Interior health authority to open overdose prevention sites in Kamloops and Kelowna this week

The Interior Health Authority is following suit with other health authorities in B.C. by opening overdose prevention sites because of the growing opioid crisis in the province.

Kamloops' Ask Wellness Society and Kelowna's Living Positive Resource Centre will house the new sites

Overdose prevention sites are expected to be up and running in Kelowna and Kamloops by the end of the week, said Interior Health (Chris Corday/CBC)

Interior Health is following the lead of other health authorities in B.C. by opening overdose prevention sites in Kelowna and Kamloops because of the growing opioid crisis in the province.

The sites will be located in Kamloops at the Ask Wellness Society and in Kelowna at the Positive Living Resource Centre, said the health authority's chief medical health officer, Dr. Trevor Corneil, in an interview with CBC Radio One's Daybreak South.

"The plan is to have them operational by the end of the week," he said.

"We have all spent that last week putting together procedural plans and bringing in staff, so we can get them up and running as soon as possible."

Dr. Trevor Corneil, the chief medical officer of health for B.C.'s Interior Health Authority, hopes the overdose prevention sites will reduce the number of drug overdose deaths in Kamloops and Kelowna. (Interior Health Authority)

The overdose prevention sites will be different from the proposed supervised drug use sites the health authority wants to put in Kelowna and Kamloops, said Corneil

"We don't actually invite users in to be supervised," he said.

"If they are already there or nearby, they are able to be come in and be monitored."

Similar sites have been announced by health authorities in the Lower Mainland, on Vancouver Island and in northern British Columbia.

Yesterday, B.C. Health Minister Terry Lake signed a ministerial order making the provincial operation of the temporary overdose sites legal.

The announcement means the Ask Wellness Society and Positive Living Resource Centre will be able to expand the opioid harm reduction work they are already doing, said Corneil.

Expand harm reduction services

Ask Wellness Society executive director Bob Hughes said the provincial funding will allow the agency to put more resources towards supporting people at risk of a drug overdose and hire more staff.

Ask Wellness head Bob Hughes said the agency will be able to allocate key staff to prevent more overdose deaths. (Jenifer Norwell/CBC)

"We have been providing a great deal of what the intent of this approach is," he said. 

"We have been administering naloxone to revive people from an overdose for eight to nine months now."

Hughes said the overdose crisis is taking a hard emotional toll on his staff, who have revived approximately 40 people from overdose with naloxone.

"Our staff has been exhausted and emotionally run through the ringer on this; seeing people either die on them or continually resuscitating people who are using these substances."

With files from CBC Radio One's Daybreak South and Daybreak Kamloops.

To hear the full story, click the audio labelled: Interior health authority to open overdose prevention sites in Kamloops and Kelowna this week

now