New supervised drug-inhalation site to open in downtown Victoria
A new drug-inhalation and overdose-prevention centre is set to open in downtown Victoria next month.
The temporary service will operate on city-owned land slated for redevelopment next year at 926 Pandora Ave.
Island Health says the supervised inhalation site will operate for 10 months while the health authority continues to search for a permanent location for inhalation drug users.
"Island Health has been searching for a permanent location for an inhalation-focused overdose prevention service in Victoria for over a year and has not been able to secure one," the health authority said in a statement Thursday. "The Pandora site has emerged as the only suitable location for a temporary solution."
Island Health says the publicly accessible site will open by mid-to late November, or sooner, pending completion of construction and staff recruitment.
"The toxic drug supply is killing people at unprecedented levels. We know that over half of people who use drugs prefer to consume drugs through inhalation or smoking," said B.C. Mental Health and Addictions Minister Sheila Malcolmson in the statement.
"We continue to add more witnessed inhalation sites because they save lives. The new temporary location in Victoria is an important part of our response to connect more people with life-saving harm reduction services where they can also access health and treatment programs."
The site will operate as a satellite of the nearby Harbour overdose prevention site, previously known as the Pandora Supervised Consumption Centre.
The Harbour, which has 10 drug-consumption booths, does not have space for supervised inhalation services or the venting required, according to Island Health.
The temporary location will be outfitted with trailers for staff and supplies and a covered area with ventilation that minimizes outdoor smoke, according to Island Health. Fencing, shrubs and greenery will also be installed to decrease public visibility and increase privacy.
The health authority says it will also increase funding for security on Pandora Avenue.
The inhalation site will be open seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. and will be able to accommodate up to 15 clients at a time.
"We’re willing to provide city-owned land on an interim basis while Island Health develops a longer-term solution in an effort to save lives in our community," said Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps. "We are moving ahead to redevelop this site next year, in partnership with BC Housing and the Capital Regional Housing Corporation, to help revitalize the area and provide 220 units of housing for a range of income levels. Until then, this temporary solution will support people where they are at and will save lives."
Vancouver Island's chief medical health officer, Dr. Richard Stanwick, said the centre will help save lives in Victoria and thanked the city for making the site feasible.