Island Health will soon offer Injectable Opioid Agonist Treatment (iOAT) to residents at a Victoria facility, the first time iOAT will be offered on Vancouver Island.

Without opioids, people living with an opioid addiction experience serious withdrawal symptoms, including severe pain and nausea. Island Health has contracted the Portland Hotel Society's (PHS) Community Services Society to provide the treatment to residents at its 844 Johnson St. location.

"Addiction is a chronic illness, and it needs to be treated with all of the tools at our disposal," said chief medical health officer Dr. Richard Stanwick. "iOAT is an effective treatment for chronic opioid addiction, and is one more way we can address overdose deaths. "

The new treatment provides pharmaceutical grade opioids for injection and has been proven effective for treating people with long-term, chronic opioid dependency. To ensure the safety of patients and people in the community, the treatment will be administered by daily supervised injections in a clinical setting.

"Adding this life-saving treatment option in Victoria means more people will be able to find the help they need when they need it," said Judy Darcy, B.C.'s minister of mental health and addictions. "For some people that includes medication-assisted treatments like iOAT."

Initially, the service will support six people living in the PHS's Johnson Street facility. When at full capacity it will increase to 20 residents.

Treatment will take place in a specially designed clinic space that includes four booths facing a medication room. There is also a multi-use area where clients engage with health and wellness services. The services provided by PHS in addition to iOAT include a supervised consumption service, referrals to mental health counselling and substance use treatment programs.

"We are pleased to provide iOAT to the residents at Johnson Street Community," said Tanya Fader, interim executive director of the PHS Community Services Society. "This will ensure ongoing access to effective treatment for people with severe opioid addiction, and will be an important addition to the continuum of services and support we provide to residents."

Residents at the facility will be the first in the Island Health region to receive iOAT services. Island Health will evaluate these services and may eventually consider opportunities to expand the service to additional locations.