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Island Health moving towards temporary inhalation OPS site

It appears finding a fixed location for inhalation overdose protection services (OPS) has been more difficult.

In an update to Courtenay city council, medical health officer Dr. Charmaine Enns and North Island mental health and substance use director Lesley Howie said Island Health has been trying to develop a fixed site since last year.

The current OPS at 947 England Ave only supports injection consumption, and they say inhalation is now a priority because consumption methods have changed.

They add the city currently has a mobile service for inhalation that, staff permitting, will be extended across weekends as of April 1 in the meantime while a permanent location is found.

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Howie said over the last year, they were able to secure funding from the health authority to develop an overdose prevention site for inhalation or to add inhalation onto the current site.

Following proposals to the community, they got a few responses with potential sites but they unfortunately did not meet the required criteria. 941 England Ave was identified as an option with the landlord willing to talk with them about it.

This location has had its architectural consultation reviewed and the project team is working with the landlord, according to Howie. They hope to have architectural drawings for mid-March.

Howie said it is difficult to decide on a timeline but some of the steps they have taken may shorten it.

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“I think that what we know is the system is activated to move as soon as we get that signature and we are quite dependent on that happening,” said Howie. “I would hope if we’re able to activate within that three-to-six-month range we would have something on the ground or at least be constructing something in that time.”

Enns adds that while another facility will help, there are others the health authority needs to help with other means.

“We need that fixed site, but we also need to remember there’s a whole bunch of people that are using substances that will never come to an OPS,” said Enns.

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