This sign is displayed in the window at the AVI Courtenay office at 355 6th St. AVI is closing its Overdose Prevention Service in March. Scott Stanfield photo

AVI Courtenay to close Overdose Prevention Service March 31

As of March 31, AIDS Vancouver Island in Courtenay will no longer offer its overdose prevention service (OPS) because it lost its contract.

The service began to operate in Courtenay in March 2017. Since then, AVI says the number of clients accessing harm reduction services has more than doubled. AVI has been told by Island Health that ‘other plans will be made.’

“Our service operated, I think, quite well for the past three years in the community, and we’re certainly feeling discouraged about the decision,” AVI Courtenay acting manager Ashley Hancock said. “And very concerned for the welfare of people that access that service.”

She acknowledges the number of visits has been lower than other communities, but the number of overdoses seen in the Courtenay office has been higher than similar-sized communities.

“Over the last four weeks, we’ve had four overdoses,” Hancock said. “We’ve now responded to 47 overdoses (since March 2017).”

Due to the impending OPS closure, the Sixth Street office will no longer be offering overdose prevention or witness injection services. It will be open five days a week with reduced hours on Fridays.

“But we will continue during that time to offer harm reduction supply distribution and collection,” Hancock said.

She notes AVI Courtenay continues to work with Island Health to conduct transition planning for clients, and to refer clients to access Mental Health and Substance Use services.

While its contract with AVI Courtenay for the provision of OPS ends March 31, Island Health said it is committed to providing overdose prevention services in the Comox Valley.

“We continue to define options for the provision of those services beyond March 31,” Island Health said in a statement. “Overdose prevention services are part of a broad overdose response strategy that includes education, intervention and prevention services, rehabilitation and recovery services, harm reduction, naloxone kits, counseling, supports and access to mental health services.”

“It’s not being cut from the community forever, it’s trying to get the best fit for our community so that it benefits more people,”

Courtenay-Comox MLA Ronna-Rae Leonard said in an interview. “The challenge is there to do the best that we can for people in need of this kind of service. I’m hopeful that it will grow out in a way that it helps more people.”

Leonard notes that recent statistics indicate a decrease in the number of British Columbians who have not survived an overdose.

“I think that’s a tribute to our program to increase access to the naloxone kit, for instance, and putting more funds and focus on the whole issue of substance use and the challenges that people face,” she said.

In a 2018 bulletin on the Island Health website, Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Richard Stanwick says overdose prevention services are one of many tools used to tackle the opioid crisis.

“It’s not just about people using drugs, and the safety around that,” Hancock said of OPS. “It’s part of a continuum of substance use support. It’s an important place where people feel safe and dignified in what they’re doing. We can capitalize on that moment and make referrals to other substance use supports, if and when they’re ready…It’s connecting people to a broader range of supports.”



reporter@comoxvalleyrecord.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Comox Valley Regional District approves emergency funding to address community COVID-19 issues

The Comox Valley Regional District’s board of directors has approved $148,279 in… Continue reading

Courtenay pharmacy donates some sanitizer despite high demand

Pure Integrative Pharmacy provides some to Glacier Village, Comox Valley Transition Society

Vancouver Island man sick with COVID-19 calls it a ‘horrible disease’

Tim Green says he has ‘extreme coughing fits every hour’ to clear his lungs

Successful removal of invasive plants in Comox park

The Friends of Mack Laing Nature Park (FMLNP) organized an ‘Invasive Pull… Continue reading

Craigdarroch residents find ways to help each other online and off

Neighbourhood of about 200 households lies between Royston and Union Bay

First Nations, remote communities need special attention in pandemic, Freeland says

Health-care workers, seniors, Indigenous Peoples some of people most at risk, health officials say

Comox Valley grocers going extra mile during coronavirus

We have had numerous requests to post a fluid article directing consumers… Continue reading

COVID-19 has been impacting Canadian economy since January

But full effects of pandemic won’t be known for months

Doctors trained abroad want to join front lines of COVID-19 fight in Canada

B.C. is looking to allow internationally trained doctors to work under the supervision of attending physicians

Fake test kits and other COVID online scams play on public anxiety: fraud centre

Vancouver has seen a spike in commercial property crimes, with offices and stores empty because of COVID-19

Canada’s 75% wage subsidy is coming, but not for several weeks: finance minister

Subsidy will cost Canada $71 billion, but push down cost of emergency benefit, Morneau said

Feds amplify stay-home message as cost of financial aid to Canadians mounts

Liberals have unveiled around $200B in direct financial aid and tax deferrals

‘We will get through this’: B.C. sees new COVID-19 death, but 57% have recovered

A total of 1,066 people have tested positive for the novel coronavirus

World COVID-19 update: Six million U.S. jobless claims; Russia sends medical aid to U.S.

Comprehensive update with COVID-19 news from around the world

Most Read