After a year of working with people experiencing homelessness and “constantly responding to overdoses” in Penticton, Desiree Franz has come to the conclusion that the city’s most vulnerable population doesn’t have enough access to support services.
To try to help solve this issue, Franz recently began a petition to bring an overdose prevention site to Penticton. She says such a site is key to combating the city’s overdose crisis.
As of July, 143 people in the Interior Health region have died from overdoses since the beginning of 2020.
Franz’s petition, started Sept. 2, has so far been signed by 77 people. When Franz shared the petition on social media she expected some support but also some backlash from the community.
“A lot of people, I think, just want to wish the problem away but unfortunately it’s not going anywhere and it’s only going to get worse unless we deal with what’s in front of us,” said Franz.
A public overdose prevention site would be the first step to reducing the harm of the overdose crisis in Penticton, explained Franz. This, she said, would include a place where people can use safely, without disclosing personal information, and are also given access to resources that point them towards recovery services in a non-judgmental way. She mentioned Vancouver’s Insite Supervised Injection Site as a possible archetype.
Franz also noted that she expects the community would also benefit from an overdose prevention site in ways such as cleaner public spaces and a reduced crime rate. “This is a solution to not seeing used needles on the beach anymore,” she said.
Interior Health confirmed Penticton does not currenlty have a public overdose prevention site. The health authority could not immediately answer if Penticton is considered a suitable place for an overdose prevention site. However, they did note the many support services available to those with substance use issues.
Some of those support services include outreach teams established in July to engage and treat people who use substances, and help connect people to treatment and recovery services, an intensive day treatment program to remove barriers for those who recognize they need help but have busy lives, opioid agonist treatment (such as Suboxone) clients continuing to rise, and the Naloxone Challenge, which teaches community members to administer naloxone, was launched last year in Penticton.
Anyone interested in learning more about the Naloxone Challenge can contact an Interior Health representative at 250-462-1050.