British Columbia

Interior health launches website to engage with drug users

The project asks drug users who use alone to take a survey explaining the barriers they face in accessing public services like harm reduction, treatment and mental health supports.

The health authority wants people who use alone to provide feedback on gaps in service

Interior Health hopes that by asking people who use drugs alone to fill out its survey, it will be better able to understand the barriers users face to accessing services. (Tina Lovgreen/CBC)

B.C.'s Interior Health authority is reaching out to drug users to ask them about gaps to addictions services.

The health authority launched a website — usesafe.ca — asking those who use drugs alone and at home to fill out a survey.

Dr. Silvina Mema — a medical health officer and the project lead —  hopes the project will break down walls between users and service providers, a relationship she says has been strained by stigma around drug use.

"This topic is very sensitive, people are not really willing to talk about this because of the stigma and shame attached to it," Mema said.

 'People that traditionally are hiding'

This week, the BC Coroners Death Review Panel released a report looking into standards of addictions treatment in our province. The report confirmed what many in the health field already knew — that the majority of deaths happen in private residences and occur when people use alone.

"The coroner finally confirms lots of things that we already anticipated were risk factors," said Mema.

"So that is the new part of this work, the novelty, is that we are trying to survey a group of people that traditionally are hiding."

Mema hopes to gather enough data within eight weeks.

The health authority hopes people will make appointments to be interviewed in person or on the phone, but says there is always the option to fill out the survey online.

"We know that some people will not be comfortable talking to the staff that will be doing the interviews so that's why we offered the option of the online survey."

With files from Radio West

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