Interior Health’s overdose prevention site in Vernon is saving lives. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)

Interior Health’s overdose prevention site in Vernon is saving lives. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)

Vernon’s controversial overdose prevention site saving lives

Site sees fewer problems than expected, but some still want it moved

A record year of overdose deaths could have been twice as bad without harm reduction services, Vernon’s overdose prevention Site says.

It’s been almost one year since Vernon’s overdose prevention site (OPS) has opened, and the door has swung open 3,200 times.

Interior Health saw a record year of overdose deaths with 283 recorded in 2020. But without the recently opened OPS in Vernon, that number could have been a lot higher, IH officials said.

“The problem would be two times as high without emergency harm reduction and treatment (Naloxone, OPS and treatment),” Interior Medical Health officer Dr. Karen Goodison said. “Sixty per cent of all deaths were averted.”

Vernon saw the highest number of drug toxicity deaths with a rate of 39 out of 100,000 versus IH’s average rate of 34/100,000.

READ MORE: With 1,716 deaths, 2020 deadliest year of overdose crisis in B.C.

The local deaths were primarily men in their 40s (one-third), with two-thirds taking place in private residences (one-fifth occurred in other residences).

The local OCP site handed out more than 8,000 hard reduction supplies including, foils, glass stems, pipes, injection supplies and naloxone kits.

There were 378 consumption visits: 161 heroin, 79 methamphetamines, 72 fentanyl, 62 polysubstance and 13 cocaine.

Once a week, on Tuesdays, drugs can also be tested with a machine that identifies multiple ingredients (FTIR).

“We only need a piece the size of a grain of rice,” said Colleen McEwan, North Okanagan’s clinical operations director of mental health and substance use and allied health.

But the number of people visiting for consumption is low compared to those picking up supplies.

The site averages 250 monthly harm reduction visits with only 30-40 of those came for supervised consumption.

“We have had 30 overdose events since we opened,” Colleen McEwan said. Of those, 29 were managed by staff at the site, one had to go to the hospital, but none died.

The site saw 920 unique visitors, 572 first-timers and the OPS worked with neighbours to ensure the clinic was closed by 3 p.m. before any school children may be in the area for nearby dance classes, etc.

“We haven’t seen the issues that some of us were concerned about come about,” Vernon city Coun. Kari Gares said.

The site was a hot topic in the community prior to being established, with the location being the main concern.

“I’m your neighbour across the street. I’m surprised the number of patrons is as high as it is because I really don’t see that much traffic going in and out of there,” Coun. Brian Quiring said.

But some businesses say they are still — and tired of — regularly cleaning up crack pipes, needles, human feces and vandalism.

“It’s been a difficult time as the activity has continued on and there has been an increase in situations around our business,” one business told the Greater Vernon Chamber of Commerce. “We are constantly dealing with the drug and street entrenched people which is nothing new for us,” another said.

Chamber general manager Dan Proulx would like to see the site moved to the hospital, where he suggests it might see more people using the supervised consumption service as it isn’t as high profile as the 32nd Avenue location.

READ MORE: Chamber not pleased with overdose prevention site in downtown Vernon


@VernonNews
jennifer@vernonmorningstar.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

overdose crisis

Just Posted

A grant from the Okanagan Basin Water Board has allowed the historic O’Keefe Ranch in Spallumcheen to construct and complete its rain gardens project. (O’Keefe Ranch photo)
Spallumcheen ranch protects ecosystem with water grant

Historic O’Keefe Ranch receives $20,000 to construct and complete rain gardens project

Michelle Jacobs receives her first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at the Coast Capri Hotel on April 28, 2021. The pop-up clinic was hosted by the First Nations Health Authority. (Aaron Hemens/Capital News)
126 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health over the weekend

There are 22 individuals hospitalized due to the virus, and 13 in intensive care

(File photo)
Repeated cougar sighting on Okanagan Rail Trail

Plenty of bear sightings around the valley too

Vernon local Ryan Lazar – who specializes in 2D background design and 3D animation – is ready to start his career after a tough yet rewarding two years of studies. (Contributed)
Okanagan College students get animated at graduation

‘The pandemic has resulted in more video consumption and the animation industry is so hot right now because of it’

An e-scooter and a car bumper make for a narrow passthrough on a sidewalk out front of the Kelowna Law Courts on Wednesday, April 28. (Michael Rodriguez/Black Press)
E-scooters ready to roll in Vernon

Final bylaw changes in place to allow personal use and for companies to operate a rental program

WildSafeBC is reminding residents to keep manage wildlife attractants on their property. (WildSafeBC Central Okanagan)
WildSafeBC reminds residents to manage attractants as bears spotted in Okanagan

The most prominent reminder is to keep garbage secured indoors until collection day

Barriere RCMP nabbed two suspects who were allegedly breaking into cabins in McLure. (File photo)
Thieves nabbed by Barriere Mounties during McLure break-ins

Police Service Dog Kody instrumental in making the arrest

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry update the province’s COVID-19 vaccine program, May 10, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection rate stays below 500 a day over weekend

14 more deaths, down to 350 in hospital as of Monday

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Royal Bay Secondary School’s rainbow crosswalk was vandalized shortly after being painted but by Monday, coincidentally the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, the crosswalk had been cleaned up and students had surrounded it with chalk messages of support and celebration. (Zoe Ducklow/News Staff)
B.C. high’s school’s pride crosswalk restored following ‘hateful’ graffiti attack

Hate terms, racial slur, phallic images spray-painted at Greater Victoria high school

RCMP vest
Penticton beach brawl results in one arrest but no charges

People took to social media after a fight broke out at the fire pits at Okanagan Lake Saturday

Terrance Mack would have celebrated his 34th birthday on May 13, 2021. Mack’s family has identified him as the victim of a homicide in an apartment on Third Avenue in Port Alberni sometime in April. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)
Family identifies Ucluelet man as victim of Vancouver Island homicide

Terrance Mack being remembered as ‘kind, gentle’ man

A single motorcycle parked outside of the Kelowna Hells Angels clubhouse at 837 Ellis Street on July 9, 2020. (Michael Rodriguez - Capital News)
Kelowna Hells Angels prospect sentenced to 9 months in jail for aggravated assault

Colin Michael Bayley pleaded guilty to the downtown Kelowna assault earlier this month

Most Read