British Columbia

Kamloops support group endorses mobile supervised consumption service

ASK Wellness in Kamloops wants to see the Interior Health Authority (IHA) move forward on a mobile supervised consumption service to reduce the number of drug overdoses in the community.

ASK Wellness found a mobile supervised consumption service could best meet the needs of Kamloops drug users

Interior Health is accepting feedback until Dec. 15 on supervised consumption services in Kamloops and Kelowna. (Chris Corday/CBC)

ASK Wellness in Kamloops wants to see the Interior Health Authority (IHA) move forward on a mobile supervised consumption service to reduce the number of drug overdoses in the community.

The society, which offers support services to help keep people off the streets, believes it's the best option to provide care given the geographic realities in Kamloops.

On Nov. 24, the health authority announced it was looking for public feedback on supervised consumption services proposed for Kamloops and Kelowna. In Kamloops, the proposal calls for a mobile unit, while Kelowna could end up with both a fixed location and a mobile unit.

"We can't just simply put a supervised consumption service in one neighbourhood only," said ASK Wellness executive director Bob Hughes in an interview with Daybreak Kamloops guest host Doug Herbert.

"There's a huge amount of displacement that happens and this is one of the realities of a community where [drug use] isn't actually ghettoized in one place."

'Starting point'

ASK Wellness received $4,500 from IHA to conduct a feasibility study for a mobile consumption service in Kamloops. 

"We looked at communities across the world from places in Europe to [a] place in Montreal," said Hughes.

"That really is the starting point for the introduction of supervised safe consumption — you start with the mobile service."

Ask Wellness head Bob Hughes sees a mobile service as a way to increase access to health care. (Jenifer Norwell/CBC)

Hughes sees this as not only a way to reduce overdoses, but as a way to provide health care to a population, which may not be accessing the necessary care.

"This is a way to make contact [and] to basically bring people into a health service that we normally can't seem to get contact with."

Interior Health is looking for feedback from the community, as well as from groups like business owners who may be impacted by the creation of a mobile service. 

Locations of mobile service to be considered

Kamloops downtown general manager Gay Pooler said there's still a lot of uncertainly about how this proposed service will impact businesses and what can be learned by looking at other communities.

"We can't compare ourselves to Vancouver. We're a completely different city," said Pooler.

As for a location, Pooler said there still needs to be discussion about where the mobile service would be positioned, if it goes ahead.

"Our CAP team picks up needles. They interact with street people all the time, but for them to be able to say that 'ya, we need this and it's going to solve our problems,' I can't say that at this point," she said.

IHA Chief Medical Health Officer Trevor Corneil believes public consultation on a mobile consumption service in Kamloops is a good place to begin looking at combating the issue of fentanyl overdoses in the region.

"We're really looking at doing something sensible to begin with. We want to see if this works and if our resident-users will make use of the service before we go and invest a huge amount of money," said Corneil.

Interior Health is accepting feedback on supervised consumption sites until Dec. 15.

The health authority will make a decision in December about whether to move forward on a mobile service in Kamloops. Corneil said if the decision is to go ahead, the health authority will make an application to Health Canada by the end of the year.

Six hundred and twenty-two people have died from overdoses in B.C. in the first 10 months of 2016.

With files from Daybreak Kamloops

​​To hear the full story, click the audio labelled: Kamloops group endorses mobile consumption service