Health Canada approvved Interior Health’s applications for mobile supervised consumption services in Kamloops and Kelowna — the two communities in the Interior hardest hit by the public health overdose emergency.
“Health Canada’s approval of supervised consumption sites will help a good many people in Kamloops and Kelowna,” said Provincial Health Officer Dr. Perry Kendall, in a press release.
“Interior Health has worked incredibly hard to make this happen including extensive consultation and engagement with the community. Additional supervised consumption services in B.C. are a great step forward in our provincial strategy to prevent overdoses and provide people who use drugs the care they need.”
In January, Interior Health announced it would be pursuing applications for mobile supervised consumption services in Kamloops and Kelowna. Interior Health submitted its applications to Health Canada in March 2017. In the interim, as part of overdose response effort, Interior Health has been offering overdose prevention and enhanced harm reduction services through mobile units currently operational in both Kamloops and Kelowna. As a result of Health Canada’s approval, supervised consumption will now be added to the services available through these mobile units.
“We are well positioned to offer supervised consumption services in our mobile units. Up until now, staff have been providing harm reduction services in the units but have not been permitted to supervise drug use,” said Dr. Trevor Corneil, Chief Medical Health Officer.
“Supervising a person who is using drugs is more than just observation. It is an opportunity for intervention, education and building a therapeutic relationship.”
Interior Health is in the process of discussing the transition of the mobile overdose prevention units to supervised consumption units with key stakeholders. Supervised consumption is expected to be provided in the units within the next two weeks. In addition to supervising consumption, staff in the mobile units also administer naloxone in the event of an overdose, provide harm reduction services and supplies, and offer primary care (wound, foot and burn care services), as well as counselling and referral services.
The mobile units will continue to operate in both communities at the same locations as previously announced. Interior Health anticipates the service will evolve over time based on community need, stakeholder input and evaluation outcomes. Interior Health is committed to working closely with its community partners to ensure the service is easily accessible for people who use drugs, while also addressing any potential concerns community stakeholders may have.
Interior Health’s mobile supervised consumption units are among the first in Canada.
Interior Health’s new supervised consumption services support the work of the Joint Task Force on Overdose Response established in 2016. As part of the wide range of actions taken, partners across the health system continue to expand access to life-saving naloxone and opioid addiction medications and treatments such as Suboxone, open more overdose prevention sites, work with Health Canada on approvals to open additional supervised consumption sites and improve the system of substance use services.