British Columbia

Interior Health puts Vernon overdose prevention site on hold for further consultation

A proposed overdose prevention site in Vernon, B.C. has been put on hold, the southern Interior’s health authority said in a statement on Monday.

Health authority says it will reissue a request for proposals on the new site after further consultations

In 2018, 24 people died of an illicit drug overdose in Vernon, B.C. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

A proposed overdose prevention site in Vernon, B.C. that was expected to open this summer has been put on hold, the local health authority said in a statement on Monday.

To allow for more consultation, Interior Health said it cancelled a request for proposals (RFP) that sought a service provider to operate the facility.

The RFP was issued issued on March 27.

"Interior Health will be seeking input from key stakeholders about how the service is designed, and intends to repost the RFP in the near future," the community update said.

"While we hope to avoid any delay in implementing this important service, our goal is to establish a successful overdose prevention service that meets the needs of diverse community groups."

Overdose deaths in Vernon

Data from the B.C. Coroners Service shows that 24 people died from illicit drug overdoses in Vernon in 2018.

Overdose prevention sites provide drug users with a safe place to use drugs while being monitored by health-care workers who can revive them in the event of an overdose. They are one of several key health interventions that the province has identified to combat the opioid crisis. 

There are 30 overdose prevention sites and supervised consumption sites operating in the province, including one in Kamloops and one in Kelowna, both run by Interior Health. To date, no one has died at any B.C. site which health officials say proves their effectiveness.

Still a need, says Interior Health

Interior Health still believes there is a need for an overdose prevention site in Vernon.

"Establishing an overdose prevention site in Vernon is an important addition to the continuum of health-care services for people with opioid use disorders," the statement said.

Other strategies provincial health authorities are pursuing for reducing deaths from overdoses include providing access to treatment, particularly suboxone and methadone, as well as naloxone to reverse overdoses.

With files from Dominika Lirette


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