British Columbia

Kootenays' first overdose prevention site opens in Nelson

Organizers say six to eight people come to the site each day for a supervised injection. The site also offers drug testing for fentanyl.

'We're one of the smallest communities in B.C. to be offering an overdose prevention site'

A one year pilot program for an overdose prevention site in Nelson, B.C., — the first of its kind in the Kootenays — had 84 visits in its first full month. (ANKOR/Instagram)

Even though it just opened, the first overdose prevention site in B.C.'s Kootenay region is already seeing steady use.

Organizers say six to eight people a day are using its services.

Cheryl Dowden, executive director of ANKORS, the AIDS Network Kootenay Outreach and Support Society, said the centre at 101 Baker St. had a soft launch in November.

In December, it had 84 visits. 

"My sense is that ... the use will grow as we go along," she told CBC's Daybreak South host Chris Walker. "We're one of the smallest communities in B.C. to be offering an overdose prevention site."

1 year pilot

ANKORS received provincial funding for a one year pilot project after running two temporary injection sites in the spring of 2018.

A co-ordinator with a nursing background and two staff members run the site along with volunteers. Staff have experience with injection drug use and are trained in first aid and naloxone administration.

In 2018, there were 21 fentanyl-related deaths in the East Kootenay and Kootenay Boundary regions from January to November according to a report from the B.C. Coroners Service

The facility includes two supervised injection booths and is open Monday to Thursday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. PT.

"They're encouraged not to take too much, and they are supported and supervised through their injections," said Dowden. 

So far, she has found they are busiest during the day and on days social assistance cheques are distributed. 

The service is being run out of the organization's office, which also offers a drug potency checking program and other programs to help with self-care, rehabilitation — even tips for surviving the winter outdoors. 

To date, there have been no overdoses at the site, and Dowden said Nelson is committed to addressing the opioid overdose crisis.

"We've had a lot of support," she said. "And, so far, I have not been hearing any negative feedback [about the injection site]."

With files from Daybreak South

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