Plan for OD prevention site?

Officials confirm that an overdose prevention site could be set up in Penticton, although talks are in "very early stages."

Kevin Fraser, mental health and substance use manager for Interior Health, said the health agency is working with community partners to determine if an overdose prevention site is feasible.

"No decisions have been made at this time. We will share information publicly as these plans progress," Fraser said in a statement to Castanet.

The South Okanagan Women In Need Society is one of the community members looking into options for an overdose prevention site, according to executive director Debbie Scarborough. 

"We don't have any sites designated or anything at this time. Right now it's a wish list."

SOWINS currently receives supplies from IH for a mobile outreach van they have. The van is different from an overdose prevention site, however. 

Scarborough said two staff members travel around town in the van and connect with individuals who need supplies or resources. 

The van's services differ from an overdose prevention site, where staff is present to monitor people who have used drugs and to provide supplies and administer naloxone if needed. There is also a safe disposal container for sharps.

"What a lot of the community is concerned about is finding used syringes in Gyro Park or other places. And we're trying to get away from that and make the community safer — for those who use and don't use," Scarborough said. 

An overdose prevention site is also different from a safe injection site, which requires federal approval and provides a space where people are supervised as they are taking drugs. 

Scarborough said it would be ideal to "jump a step" and get a safe injection site in Penticton.

"Crime would be reduced, people wouldn't have to sell themselves, there wouldn't be that survival sex for addictions... But we're not there, we're not even at the OPS stage," Scarborough said. 

She said that overdose prevention sites exist in Kelowna, Kamloops and Vernon — some being mobile — and she hopes that Penticton would be next in line for IH.

"We may be smaller in population... But during the summer, we triple. We have a lot more transient individuals," she said, pointing out there are many more workers and tourists as well. 

"We have more people using and accessing services. So it does make sense, and I would hope we would be considered a place that is worthy of an OPS."

According to data released earlier this month by IH,  Penticton Regional Hospital was fourth among Okanagan hospitals last year in overdose emergency room visits with close to 175 visits between Jun. 1, 2016 and Nov. 30, 2017.

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