There were 27 fatal drug overdoses in Northeast B.C. in 2021 — the second-deadliest year on record for the region, behind a record 31 deaths reported in 2020.
Northern Health will present plans to Fort St. John city councillors next week for a new health centre and supervised drug consumption site in the city.
According to presentation materials posted to the city’s website on Thursday, a new health services centre is planned for 102 Avenue, and will include supervised consumption spaces for drug users, including separate injection and inhalation rooms.
“The provision of OPS services are part of a response to a dire public health emergency in Fort St. John and the Peace Region,” the presentation reads. “The ramping up of overdose prevention responses across all sectors has been deemed essential by the Province.”
The presentation will be made to council Monday afternoon, and in advance of a future temporary use permit application expected to go before council at a later date, according to the council’s agenda.
A mobile overdose prevention site has already been operating in Fort St. John on weekday mornings at the Alliance Church parking lot on 99 Avenue. The service also operates at the First Nations Health Authority parking lot on 100 Avenue in weekday afternoons.
But according to the presentation, the mobile service is “unsustainable due to extreme weather conditions” and people may not know where it’s located.
There were 27 fatal drug overdoses in Northeast B.C. in 2021 — the second-deadliest year on record for the region, behind a record 31 deaths reported in 2020. Five people died in January of this year.
On Thursday, Northern Health also issued a toxic drug alert for the city, warning that drugs such as “blue meth” and “green heroin” were being mixed with antifreeze.
A permanent site would provide more spaces for clients and accompanying family and support, as well as opportunities for wrap-around health and social services, the presentation reads.
Services are also proposed to include drug testing and the distribution of harm reduction supplies, according to the presentation, as well as primary care services such as wound care and communicable disease prevention, and access to doctors, nurses, social workers, life skills workers, and peers. Counselling and health care and treatment referrals are also proposed.
“There is evidence to support overdose prevention services upholding community safety and accountability,” the presentation materials state, noting overdose prevention services reduce public drug use and drug paraphernalia litter. It says services “do not increase drug consumption” and “do not increase drug trafficking or crime in the community.
“All patrons of overdose prevention sites have remained safe and there have been zero deaths on site,” the presentation states.
Read the presentation in full below: