Victoria safe injection site celebrates first anniversary
Glenn MacDonald, CTV Vancouver Island
Published Friday, June 28, 2019 5:03PM PDT
Last Updated Friday, June 28, 2019 6:51PM PDT
The Harbour safe injection site was buzzing with activity Friday. People coming in constantly, the staff welcoming them on a first-name basis.
The harm reduction hub on Pandora Street in downtown Victoria was celebrating its first anniversary, and has now been approved to keep running until June 2022.
“At least 100 people are alive today that wouldn’t be without our services,” said Richard Stanwick, Chief Medical Health Officer for Island Health.
“We’ve had over 60,000 visits in the year that we’ve been open and 181 individuals had their overdoses reversed because they injected in a safe location.”
Not only do safe injection sites mediate overdoses and give people a safe, clean place to use, they also introduce people to other social programs like addiction treatment, counselling and safe housing.
“They love us, they’re so glad a place like this exists,” said Tim Gorman, program manager for the Lookout Society, a group working under the umbrella of care for Victoria’s vulnerable homeless population.
“We build relationships. We build community with people and welcome them with open arms. It’s profound for me.”
Aside from preventing deaths from overdoses, injection sites also educate and remove some of the burden from paramedics. Approximately 177 ambulance calls were avoided last year because a paramedic was already on site at Harbour, according to staff.
“It has been nothing but a very positive experience. We’re really pleased to be a part of this,” said Brad Cameron, manager of patient care delivery for Greater Victoria.
“It has brought an element of education to the paramedics in a very intimate way. Having paramedics on site has given us a better appreciation of the struggles that these people have," he said.
"It has also built a rapport with ambulance paramedics with the folks here. They have a much better relationship. It elevates our desire to be advocates for the clientele.”