Supervised consumption sites are not enough to curb deaths due to the opioid/fentanyl epidemic, according to Island Health central Vancouver Island’s medical health officer.
In a Nov. 14 report on the region’s health, made to the Regional District of Nanaimo board, Dr. Paul Hasselback said there were about 45.5 deaths per 100,000, as of the end of September, as opposed to 26 per 100,000 for all of 2016, according to B.C. Coroners Service numbers.
Hasselback told the News Bulletin “there is no doubt” the numbers are due to the opioid crisis. Safe injection is saving lives and Hasselback said that a number of sites, including Nanaimo, have an overdose rate of about one per cent.
There is a multi-faceted approach to reducing the overdose situation, Hasselback said.
“It’s not good enough to have an overdose prevention site,” he said. “It needs to be linked in with support services access and pathways into treatment.”
Hasselback said housing plays a factor, as it is an integral part of the “therapeutic environment” and it is something that needs to be examined.
“In both parts of the regional district, Nanaimo and Oceanside, housing is at a critical need at this point in time and when we don’t have housing, we see increases in street-oriented individuals,” said Hasselback. “It’s got nothing to do with the overdose situation, it’s a housing crisis. The two seem to be happening coincidentally here.
“I see a lot of people wanting to blame it and that’s an inappropriate judgment and not an understanding of the challenges faced by overdoses, but on the other hand, we haven’t had really good conversations with the community relative to changes that happened on the treatment side, what follow up is occurring, it’d be a good conversation, but that’s not for today.”