British Columbia

Kelowna overdose pop-up site shut down after concerns from nearby daycare

A volunteer citizen group cancelled plans for a pop-up overdose prevention site in Kelowna's Rutland neighbourhood Thursday after a nearby daycare expressed concerns to Interior Health.

'As our children are playing, it's 20, 30 feet away'

This tent was set up for drug users at the pop-up overdose prevention site in Rutland on Wednesday. (Chad Smith)

Efforts to open an overdose prevention site in Kelowna's Rutland neighbourhood once again hit a wall as a pop-up site was shut down on Thursday following concerns from a nearby daycare centre.

The site was going to be run by a group of volunteers trained on how to administer naloxone to drug users.

The group planned to open the site for three days this week, but organizers had to cancel the site on Thursday and Friday after the daycare owner contacted Interior Health.

"We got all set up to go and then I got an email from IH saying we had a concerned business owner in the area," said Chad Smith, one of the organizers.

'It's the not in my backyard syndrome'

"I went over and did talk to the daycare owner and said we're here to help her. We want to make the whole community much safer and she just thought it would bring more unwanted behavior."

"It's very, very frustrating. It's the not-in-my-backyard syndrome, and that's the same problem we had for the permanent facility."

A permanent overdose prevention site was set to open in the community in December but was cancelled at the last minute also due to concerns from neighbouring businesses.

"The problem is the community as a whole is so opposed to a harm reduction zone."

Pop-up site located within view of daycare

On Wednesday, the pop-up site set up in a parking lot adjacent to the Lil' Bloomers Childcare inside the Rutland Centennial Hall.

"As our children are playing outside, it's 20, 30 feet away, so if people are injecting close by or they happen to OD ... children do not need to witness that," said daycare owner Tammy Nilsson.

The pop-up site was scheduled to run from 4 - 8 p.m. each day, but Nilsson said children are regularly at her centre until at least 5:30 and parents raised concerns.

"They don't want their kids coming here anymore."

Nilsson said the citizen volunteer group did not approach her prior to picking the site location.

"They're just doing it voluntarily. There's no authorization from any organization," said Nilsson.

Interior Health aware of site location

Interior Health trained the citizen volunteers on the proper use of naloxone and was aware that the site would be set up.

"While we appreciate community driven responses and share the concern the 'pop-up' organizers have about overdose deaths and the need for overdose prevention services we also need to ensure they are delivered safely and in appropriate locations," the health authority said In a written statement.

Nilsson believes a permanent site should be set up at the Rutland Health Centre on Gray Road. Interior Health wouldn't say if that is being considered.

In the meantime, Smith said any future plans for pop-up sites are now on hold.

"I don't know where we go from here. It was a big blow, so we're just going to regroup and figure out what to do next."

With files from Daybreak South