The Downtown Vernon Association (DVA) is joining those who wish to inform Interior Health that a proposed overdose prevention site (OPS) in Vernon does not belong downtown.
The DVA, along with other community stakeholders, recently had the opportunity to provide feedback, input suggestions and to directly communicate its Business Improvement Area member (BIA) concerns to Interior Health (IHA) regarding the implementation of an overdose prevention site in Vernon.
The DVA summarized its suggestions and concerns to IHA with a request that the following be genuinely considered during the selection of a third-party service provider and the operation of an OPS:
1. That the OPS site not be located within the BIAs. That this medical service is best provided and situated within or near the Vernon Jubilee Hospital.
“Our understanding of the opioid crisis is that this crisis is a medical crisis, and as such, the most logical location for medical service to address the crisis is at or near a medical facility,” said Susan Lehman, DVA executive director. “The hospital is located within a 10-minute walk of the edge of Vernon’s secondary BIA, where current emergency shelter services currently exist;
2. That should the OPS site be located within the BIAs, that there is a consistent and regular feedback mechanism in place for neighbouring businesses and properties to communicate with the service provider;
3. That the service provider be held to a three-to-six month contract performance review to assure the community that the site is being operated in accordance with the original proposed operational standards;
4. That if additional security measures are required for the safety and security of the surrounding businesses or public spaces, that appropriate measures are immediately taken and that the cost of these measures be that of either IHA or the service provider.
“While the limited studies have not shown an increase in crime statistics (as noted at the May 13 regular Vernon council meeting), we do anticipate that there will be an increase in street-level disorder around a drug-use facility,” said Lehman. “An increase in street-level disorder is quite simply an unacceptable demand to be placed on a business community, at this time, when most businesses and property owners are already doing their utmost best to co-exist within the social constructs that make up a downtown business community.”
Lehman said the DVA is very proud of the level of compassion that most of its business community consistently demonstrates, and has throughout the DVA’s 52 years, to lesser-advantaged and often marginalized groups in Vernon.
“Many of our members donate or provide resources through time, money, stewardship, and/or resources and have a sincere interest in improving the health of our community and their neighbours,” she said. “Our suggestions to IHA are not made lightly nor without tremendous compassion and concern for Vernon’s citizens at-risk. The DVA recognizes that current social issues, including the opioid crisis, can be difficult subjects to discuss. However, we remain committed to working with our community stakeholders in continued conversation, respect of each others ideas or suggestions, and continued advocacy on behalf of DVA members.”
The DVA represents more than 600 commercial property owners and business owners within the Business Improvement Areas of Vernon (downtown) and all are within a 50+ block radius.