Interior Health (IH) will expand its Downtown Primary Care Centre in Vernon to provide an overdose prevention site.
Following more than a year of debate and community engagement, IH announced Monday, May 11, that its 3306A-32nd Avenue location in Vernon would serve marginalized populations combating addictions.
The expansion of Interior Health’s mental health and substance use services at the downtown location, which is already leased by the health authority, will see a full staff of 16 and two psychiatric specialists serve those in need between 9 a.m.-3 p.m., Monday through Friday.
Director of Clinical Operations Colleen McEwan told council Monday, May 11, the hours were determined through the examination of the more than year-long public consultation and review of the epidemiology.
The hours were found by IH to have the least impact on surrounding businesses and neighbours, while still providing for the greatest service.
IH will be providing neighbouring businesses with a direct line to report issues that may arise and as the project will not be run by a third-party contractor, the health authority will be in a better position to respond and mitigate any issues quickly, McEwan said.
Overdose prevention sites provide designated spaces to monitor people who use drugs and ensure that naloxone and other lifesaving first aid is available in the event of an overdose. Unlike supervised consumption (injection) sites, overdose prevention sites do not require an application for exemption from federal drug laws.
The city had 23 overdose deaths in 2017, 24 in 2018 and have already had three in the first three months and a bit of 2019.
This prevention site falls under the public health emergency “umbrella,” McEwan said, and if the province were to lift the emergency declaration of the opioid crisis, IH would re-evaluate this location.
Interior Health said it will hold an open house in the future as COVID-19 restrictions ease.