North

Here's a look inside Yukon's 1st supervised consumption site

The site is designed to provide a safe and hygienic environment for people to use drugs under the supervision of qualified medical staff. 

The Whitehorse site officially opens on Sept. 29

Brontë Renwick-Shields, executive director of the Blood Ties Four Directions Centre, said the opening of the new supervised consumption site is 'an extremely important step as we move forward to end the overdose crisis.' Behind her is Yukon's minister of health and social services, Tracy-Anne McPhee. (VINCENT BONNAY/RADIO-CANADA)

Yukon lost 14 people to overdoses from January to August this year.

It's a statistic Yukon's minister of health and social services, Tracy-Anne McPhee, reminded the media of as she gave a tour of Whitehorse's first supervised consumption site Monday.

The site, which officially opens Wednesday, is designed to provide a safe and hygienic environment for people to use drugs under the supervision of qualified medical staff. 

"Harm reduction approaches to substance use saves lives. It's just simply that simple," McPhee said. 

The supervised consumption site in Whitehorse will provide a safe and hygienic environment for people to use drugs under the supervision of qualified medical staff. (VINCENT BONNAY/RADIO-CANADA)

Harm reduction not a new concept

While the site is new, the concept of harm reduction sites is not, partners in the project explained.

Yukon is the sixth jurisdiction in Canada to open a supervised consumption site, along with British Columbia, Ontario, Alberta, Quebec and Saskatchewan, where some of the sites have been operating for up to eight years.

"This is an extremely important step as we move forward to end the overdose crisis," Brontë Renwick-Shields, executive director of the Blood Ties Four Directions Centre, said while acknowledging there is still a lot of work to do. 

Staff at the supervised consumption site will be trained to administer naloxone, which can reverse deadly opioid overdoses. (VINCENT BONNAY/RADIO-CANADA)

The centre originally opened in 1993 as the AIDS Yukon Alliance. It changed its name in 2001, with the mission to eliminate barriers and create opportunities for people to have equal access to health and wellness to be able to live in the community with dignity. 

"The goal of the site is not only supervised consumption, but also to provide individuals with an access point for health, housing and wellness supports," Renwick-Shields said.

"This site represents action that Blood Ties individuals, people who use drugs and their family members and loved ones have been advocating for for years."

The supervised consumption site is located in downtown Whitehorse at 6189 Sixth Ave. (VINCENT BONNAY/RADIO-CANADA)

Centre opens Sept. 29

The opening of the site was delayed by four weeks due to delays in facility renovations and staff training.

Officials acknowledged there are staffing shortages across the country and in the Yukon, noting that in the opening week only three people will be able to use the facility at a time, but said the capacity will be increased in the coming weeks, once they have more staff. 

The site is at 6189 6th Ave. Anyone can access its services from Monday to Friday from 10:30 a.m. to 7 p.m.

The supervised consumption site will also provide an access point for people to get health, housing and wellness supports. (VINCENT BONNAY/RADIO-CANADA)

Corrections

  • An earlier version of this story said only one person could use the site at a time. In fact, three people can use the site at one time.
    Sep 29, 2021 8:50 AM CT

With files from Vincent Bonnay and Elyn Jones

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