British Columbia

More security to patrol area near Vancouver Island overdose prevention site

The City and Island Health will jointly manage the service as a way to reduce the impact on nearby businesses and neighbours in Duncan, B.C.

Island Health and CMHA are looking for suitable new location

The overdose prevention site in Duncan, B.C., is close to homes and a shopping area. Health officials are looking for a new location. (Kathryn Marlow/CBC )

Additional security guards will soon be patrolling the streets surrounding the overdose prevention site in Duncan, B.C., in an attempt to reduce the negative impact on nearby businesses and neighbours. 

Duncan Mayor Michelle Staples told All Points West guest host David Lennam that while overdose prevention sites are necessary for people's health and safety, they also have a negative impact on other people's lives.

"Trying to find a balance between those two places is something that not only Cowichan but other communities struggle with as well," Staples said. 

The move to add more security guards comes after Island Health and the Cowichan branch of the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) said in October that they were looking for a new home for the site because it had outgrown its space. 

Security services will be provided by Blackbird Security and will be funded by Island Health, according to the mayor.

'Compassion fatigue'

The overdose prevention site is on the corner of a residential street and across from a shopping area. On average, 120 people visit the site each day during the six hours it's open to use drugs. Staff are on hand with clean needles, naloxone, and oxygen masks.

James Tousignant, executive director of Cowichan Valley CMHA, said in October that the site is vital because it saves lives, but it's tough on the neighbourhood. He said neighbours who believe in the service are suffering from "compassion fatigue."

James Tousignant is executive director of the Cowichan Valley branch of the Canadian Mental Health Association, which runs the overdose prevention service. (Megan Thomas/CBC)

Tousignant said he'd heard from residents who no longer sit on their porch because of disruptive behaviour and have a hard time getting through crowds that gather around the overdose prevention site.

The mayor said Island Health has been working hard to find another location for the site, but it's not easy. 

"There aren't many locations that won't have a negative impact," Staples said while adding that Duncan is a small community with few empty buildings. 

She said security guards will patrol the area until a new location for the overdose prevention site is found. 

Click the link below to listen to the full interview:

With files from Kathryn Marlow & All Points West