Aids Vancouver Island's Overdose Prevention Site will be closing at the end of the month. (Photo taken by Jon Gauthier, MyComoxValleyNow.com Staff)
A group upset at the future closure of the Opioid Prevention Site in Courtenay is planning to host an Awareness March this week.
Grant Shilling is one of the members taking part. He is also a front line outreach worker with the Dawn To Dawn Action on Homelessness Society.
He says the march will help voice concerns people have over Aids Vancouver Island choosing to close the site at the end of the Month.
“We’re going to march to the Island Health administration offices and hopefully get a response from them in regards to why (they are making) this decision, and can they assure us on April 1st that there will be a safe injection site”, says Shilling.
Island Health made the announcement that it would be closing its OPS site in Courtenay in February.
Shilling says he, along with many others don’t understand the reasoning behind the decision.
“As an outreach worker and a member of the community, I’m aware of how important the on-site injection site has been to the community. In terms of saving lives, getting people some dignity, most important also connecting with referral services,” he says. “To take that away and that familiarity of that is a huge loss to the community and I’m concerned.”
“17 lives have been saved so far this year and we’re only in March. What is a life worth in economic terms? Second of all per capita on the island, we have just as many, if not more overdoses in the community than anywhere else. It makes no senses and they should answer to it,” added Shilling.
Shilling says once the site closes if there is nothing to replace it, everyone in the community will feel the effects.
“I really think this concerns everybody, were all born from someone so sons and daughters are at risk. Mothers, parents, community members, frontline workers, substance users.
“I would think that the downtown Courtenay business association will be interested because when you eliminate ejection sites, people are still going to be using and you’ll find that they might have to end up using alleyways,” added Shilling.
Shilling encourages everyone to take part in the march to help raise awareness that the site is closing and the effect it will have on the Comox Valley.
The march will start at the Warming Center on Cliffe Avenue Tuesday afternoon at 2:00 and will end at the Vancouver Island Health Offices near 17th Street.